HOMEMASS MEDIAXavier in the NewsSatellites at Night Can Shed Light on Earth’s Poverty
21 April 2014
Satellites at Night Can Shed Light on Earth’s Poverty
Mass media - News Sala i Martín
The Wall Street Journal

Satellites orbiting the Earth can help people forecast the weather or navigate through an unfamiliar city. They also can help economists gauge poverty rates around the world.

The trick is to measure artificial light generated at night, two economists wrote in a recent paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “It is intuitive that nighttime lights should reflect economic activity to some degree because light is a critical input in many production processes and consumption activities (e.g. outdoor lighting, consumption activities at night in private homes or public places, transportation of goods and people, productive activity in factories and office buildings, and evening consumption of mass media),” they wrote.

Maxim Pinkovskiy a New York Fed economist, and Xavier Sala-i-Martin, a Columbia University economics professor, used satellite imagery to evaluate two more traditional ways to measure poverty: national-level data in the form of per-capita gross domestic product, and household-level consumption data from surveys. The two often disagree: Survey data “have a much lower level and a slower growth rate,” and thus find more and more persistent poverty, the economists noted [...]

- Link to the whole article (blogs.wsj.com)