Regional convergence and inequality with nighttime luminosity data


Do poorer regions catch up with richer ones, or do they remain stagnant? Is regional inequality a transitory by-product of development or a permanent feature of modern economies? The proposed project examines the causes and consequences of uneven growth in a global sample of subnational units over a period of 20 years. We conduct these analyses by exploiting newly available tools, that is, by relying on regional light intensities at night as a proxy for local development. We obtain these data from geo-coded satellite images. The main goals are twofold: first, we examine how convergence speeds differ among regions and what drives these differences, and, second, we analyze how inequalities within and between subnational regions are affected by the regional level of development. In addition, the project contributes to the econometric analysis of convergence in general and non-parametric testing procedures in particular. We also aim to investigate the properties of different inequality indices that are particularly suitable for the special features of luminosity data. We request financing for a PhD student to support this undertaking, since working with satellite data requires a considerable amount of time and a high level of expertise (in handling large volumes of geographic data sets).

Project duration: 20 months