Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sweetness and light 

Technology is pretty sweet. It lets us do things I could never have imagined doing ten years ago. Around that time it was popular to use electricity consumption data as a check on GDP, and to try to measure informal economic activity. It's flawed, of course, when electrical appliances and distribution systems are being upgraded while you're measuring, but it was a piece of evidence you could use, certainly.

Now a new paper, discussed in The Economist this week, is using night light measurements from space to verify published GDP statistics for many countries. (Ungated version appears to be here.) They are able to use the data to create GDP estimates for countries that do not report official data, and to test the hypothesis that good farming years increase income (and light) in cities.

(h/t: Scott Beaulier)