Satellite Data for the Social Sciences: Measuring Rural Electrification with Nighttime Lights

International Journal of Remote Sensing (Forthcoming)

85 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2017 Last revised: 8 Dec 2017

Eugenie Dugoua

Columbia University

Ryan Kennedy

University of Houston - Department of Political Science

Johannes Urpelainen

Johns Hopkins SAIS

Date Written: November 26, 2017

Abstract

Remote sensing data has the potential to revolutionize social science. One of the most prominent examples of this is the Nighttime Lights dataset, which provides digital measures of nighttime luminosity from 1992 to 2013. This study evaluates the Nighttime Lights data against detailed rural electrification data from the 2011 Census of India. The results suggest that many nighttime luminosity measures derived from satellite data are surprisingly accurate for measuring rural electrification, even at the village level and using simple statistical tools. We also demonstrate that this accuracy can be substantially improved by using of better GIS maps, basic geoprocessing tools, and particular aggregations of nighttime luminosity. Nighttime luminosity performs worse in measuring financial inclusion or proxies of poverty, however, and detects rural electrification less accurately when the supply of power is intermittent. These results offer guidelines for when and how remote sensing data can be used when administrative data is absent or unreliable.

Keywords: Night Lights, India, Electrification, Economic Development, Remote Sensing

Suggested Citation

Dugoua, Eugenie and Kennedy, Ryan and Urpelainen, Johannes, Satellite Data for the Social Sciences: Measuring Rural Electrification with Nighttime Lights (November 26, 2017). International Journal of Remote Sensing (Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3083505

Eugenie Dugoua

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Ryan Kennedy (Contact Author)

University of Houston - Department of Political Science ( email )

TX 77204-3011
United States
713-743-1663 (Phone)
713-743-3890 (Fax)

Johannes Urpelainen

Johns Hopkins SAIS ( email )

1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1984
United States

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