Illuminating Economic Growth

Author:Jiaxiong Yao
Position:JIAXIONG YAO is an economist in the IMF's African Department. This article draws on IMF Working Paper 19/77 by Yingyao Hu and Jiaxiong Yao.
Pages:48-51
SUMMARY

Satellite images of the earth at night reveal the pace of economic growth and much more

 
FREE EXCERPT
S
cientists have been using satell ite images
of Earth at night—often referred to as
“night lights”—to study human activ ity
and natural events for a lmost 30 years. In
the past decade, economist s have followed suit,
realizing t hat night lights ca n help gauge eco-
nomic growth, map poverty, analy ze inequality,
and tackle numerous questions ot herwise impos-
sible to answer, especially in places where dat a are
lacking. In fact, i f aliens were ever to approach
Earth from its d ark side, they would already know
some basics about the global economy long before
reaching our atmosphere.
Human light shows, exotic seen from space,
have recurrent themes. Take a look at the Korean
peninsula and ga sp at the stark dierence between
the north and the south (see Image 1). It is a con-
trast of darkne ss and brightness, of isolation and
connectedness. Travel back in time and ma rvel at
how fast China and India h ave been lighting up.
It is a story of development and growth, openness
and globalization.
Satellite images of the earth at night reveal the pace of economic growth and much more
Jiaxiong Yao
ILLUMINATING
ECONOMIC
GROWTH
48 FINANCE & DEVELOPMENT | September 2019

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