Knowledge Note

"How may viewing our planet from above revolutionize Economics research?"

The past decade has seen a dramatic change in the way that economists can learn by watching our planet from above. A revolution has taken place in remote sensing and allied fields such as computer science, engineering, and geography. Petabytes of satellite imagery have become publicly accessible at increasing resolution, many algorithms for extracting meaningful social science information from these images are now routine, and modern cloud-based processing power allows these algorithms to be run at global scale.

This primer seeks to introduce economists to the science of remotely sensed data, and to give a flavor of how this new source of data has been used by economists so far and what might be done in the future.

This primer is a condensed form of an American Economic Association paper, published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives Vol. 30, No. 4, Fall 2016 Issue, and authored by Dr. Dave Donaldson of Stanford University and Dr. Adam Storeygard of Tufts University. To learn more, please access the full paper here.