Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Measuring Economic Growth From Outer Space

Click to enlarge.
GDP growth is poorly measured for many countries and rarely measured for cities at all. Given the low quality of GDP measures for countries and the almost total absence of GDP measures for sub-national units such as cities, we propose a readily available proxy: satellite data on lights at night. The best use of lights data is to examine growth in GDP rather than GDP levels, so that cross-country differences in how lights spatially and culturally reflect consumption are differenced out.

The figure above contrasts the big increase in lights from 1992 to 2002 in the Eastern European countries of Poland, Hungary, and Romania with the distinct dimming of lights to the east in the former Soviet Republics of Moldova and the Ukraine, which endured a harsh transition process.



At 9/02/2009 4:28 PM, Blogger Colin said...

Wonder how it will take for North Korea to begin to twinkle.

At 9/02/2009 4:45 PM, Blogger 1 said...

What will it look like when the foolish citizens bend over, grab their ankles and use those mandated but idiotic CFL bulbs?

At 9/02/2009 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First we find a proxy for T in MV=PT: Y (GDP)

A baby cow is born, GDP per capita goes up. A baby human is born, GDP per capita goes down. A woman quits her job and fires her nanny to take care of her own kids, GDP drops. It's little wonder macroeconomists keep screwing up our economy because they can't even fathom the net contributions of individual transactions to social welfare.

Now we are finding proxies for Y by counting lights or phone calls or internet searches. These are used to estimate CO2 output as evidence of how we're killing our planet.

Then we use GDP growth as a fallacious measure of economic development. We ask shipping clerks, waitresses, and auto mechanics what they feel the economy is like. How 'confident' are you John? Will you be more confident in the next six months?

The more macroeconomics evolves, the more voodoo it becomes.

Next we'll be using Where's George to estimate the velocity of money.

At 9/02/2009 7:44 PM, Blogger QT said...


Half my house is fluorescent although not of the twisty lightbulb kind (ie. 4 footers & CFLs where the ballast is part of the fixture). How can building a ballast into a disposable light bulb rather than the light fixture be efficient or economical? There is another downside although one that most people are not aware of:

Power Factor: the hidden cost of plugging in CFL bulbs

There are a lot of exciting things happening in lighting and ballast technology. We will likely look back at the twisty lightbulb in a few years as an anachronism like 3-D glasses and the hula-hoop.

At 9/03/2009 4:36 AM, Blogger bob wright said...

What's really dangerous is when government assumes it is the proxy for all human intelligence.

Government runs education.
Government runs health care.
Government runs agriculture.
Government runs your toilets.
Government runs your light bulbs.

It's amazing just how smart these people in Washington are - the vast majority of which have never taught in a classroom, never practiced medicine, never grown anything except grass, aren't plumbers and they certainly aren't electricians.

Somehow, someway,their poli-sci and law degrees make them smarter than everyone else.

I don't understand why we even need universities. Drop the medical schools - everyone should get a poli-sci degree.

At 9/03/2009 4:12 PM, Blogger 1 said...

"Half my house is fluorescent"...

Well I don't have anything against fluorescent lighting per se, its these nutty, semi-useless, soon to be government/nanny state mandated bulbs that aren't nearly as practical as incandscents are...

I use regular tube fluoros over my computer but I wouldn't use them in a room where I just spend a couple of minutes...

If I ever buy any of these CFL bulbs it'll only be so that I can throw them at Van Jones...

At 9/03/2009 4:42 PM, Blogger bob wright said...

Just wait till you have to put CFLs in your chandelier instead of flame tip incandescent bulbs.

The CFLs are


They ain't got no alibi

They're ugly.


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