Mapping urban living standards and economic activity in developing countries with energy data
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Urban data deficits in developing countries impede evidence-based planning and policy. Could energy data be used to overcome this challenge by serving as a local proxy for living standards or economic activity in large urban areas? To answer this question, we examine the potential of georeferenced residential electricity meter data and night-time lights (NTL) data in the megacity of Karachi, Pakistan. First, we use nationally representative survey data to establish a strong association between electricity consumption and household living standards. Second, we compare gridded radiance values from NTL data with a unique dataset containing georeferenced median monthly electricity consumption values for over 2 million individual households in the city. Finally, we develop a model to explain intra-urban variation in radiance values using proxy measures of economic activity from Open Street Map. Overall, we find that NTL data are a poor proxy for living standards but do capture spatial variation in population density and economic activity. By contrast, electricity data are an excellent proxy for living standards and could be used more widely to inform policy and support poverty research in cities in low- and middle-income countries.
- Social & Economic Survey Research Institute Research [265 items ]