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Using Nighttime Satellite Imagery as a Proxy Measure of Human Well-Being

Author(s): Tilottama Ghosh | Sharolyn J. Anderson | Christopher D. Elvidge | Paul C. Sutton

Journal: Sustainability
ISSN 2071-1050

Volume: 5;
Issue: 12;
Start page: 4988;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: nighttime lights imagery | LandScan population data | human well-being | Night Light Development Index (NLDI) | Gross Domestic Product | informal economy | poverty rates | electrification rates | human ecological footprint

Improving human well-being is increasingly recognized as essential for movement toward a sustainable and desirable future. Estimates of different aspects of human well-being, such as Gross Domestic Product, or percentage of population with access to electric power, or measuring the distribution of income in society are often fraught with problems. There are few standardized methods of data collection; in addition, the required data is not obtained in a reliable manner and on a repetitive basis in many parts of the world. Consequently, inter-comparability of the data that does exist becomes problematic. Data derived from nighttime satellite imagery has helped develop various globally consistent proxy measures of human well-being at the gridded, sub-national, and national level. We review several ways in which nighttime satellite imagery has been used to measure the human well-being within nations.
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