NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Tim L. Squires

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NBER Working Papers and Publications

April 2016The Global Spatial Distribution of Economic Activity: Nature, History, and the Role of Trade
with J. Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard, David N. Weil: w22145
We study the distribution of economic activity, as proxied by lights at night, across 250,000 grid cells of average area 560 square kilometers. We first document that nearly half of the variation can be explained by a parsimonious set of physical geography attributes. A full set of country indicators only explains a further 10%. When we divide geographic characteristics into two groups, those primarily important for agriculture and those primarily important for trade, we find that the agriculture variables have relatively more explanatory power in countries that developed early and the trade variables have relatively more in countries that developed late, despite the fact that the latter group of countries are far more dependent on agriculture today. We explain this apparent puzzle in a mo...
 
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