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Chen, X., & Nordhaus, W. D. (2011). Using luminosity data as a proxy for economic statistics. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 108(21), 8589–8594.
Abstract: A pervasive issue in social and environmental research has been how to improve the quality of socioeconomic data in developing countries. Given the shortcomings of standard sources, the present study examines luminosity (measures of nighttime lights visible from space) as a proxy for standard measures of output (gross domestic product). We compare output and luminosity at the country level and at the 1 degrees latitude x 1 degrees longitude grid-cell level for the period 1992-2008. We find that luminosity has informational value for countries with low-quality statistical systems, particularly for those countries with no recent population or economic censuses.