NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

China's GDP Growth May be Understated

Hunter Clark, Maxim Pinkovskiy, Xavier Sala-i-Martin

NBER Working Paper No. 23323
Issued in April 2017
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth

Concerns about the quality of China’s official GDP statistics have been a perennial question in understanding its economic dynamics. We use data on satellite-recorded nighttime lights as an independent benchmark for comparing various published indicators of the state of the Chinese economy. Using the methodology of Pinkovskiy and Sala-i-Martin (2016a and b), we exploit nighttime lights to compute the optimal weights for various Chinese economic indicators in a best unbiased predictor of Chinese growth rates. Our computations of Chinese growth based on optimal weightings of various combinations of economic indicators provide evidence against the hypothesis that the Chinese economy contracted precipitously in late 2015, and are consistent with the rate of Chinese growth being higher than is reported in the official statistics.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23323

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