Getting accurate, meaningful and internationally comparable measures of poverty is challenging in developing countries. Household surveys can use measures of income, consumption, and expenditures to try to estimate income although collecting data like this is very time consuming and does not always produce optimal results. Alternatively, many household surveys instead rely upon measures of asset ownership to proxy for wealth or poverty. While these are easier to collect, they still require tedious household surveys and the comparability across countries, or even within countries, can be problematic.

I saw an interesting paper this morning that uses remotely sensed measures of artificial night time lights as a proxy for poverty. Basically, your wealth with be correlated with your association with lights, either of your own, or in your community. Quite an interesting idea. The big advantages of this are that it uses existing data so does not require any additional data collection, is available continuously, and can be measured for the whole country, down to relatively small blocks. I am very curious to know how useful this measure will become, but for now think this is a really great idea…

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