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    Researchers Use Satellite Imagery to Map Economic Inequality Among Indians

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    Asia & Pacific
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    A recent study by two economists using nightime lights captured by satellites from outer space has sought to establish the measure of economic inequality in India. While the researchers argue it is a conclusive way of measuring economic activity in different regions, there are many who disagree.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) – Economists Praveen Chakravarty and Vivek Dehejia acquired images grabbed by satellites from the US Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite and superimposed a map of India with its districts clearly bifurcated on the image to develop a unique data set of luminosity values district-wise over a period of time to get the results.

    These satellites whose images have been used for the research circle the earth 14 times a day and record lights from the earth's surface at night with sensors. 

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    The two Indian economists studied 387 of 640 districts in 12 states of India. These districts in total account for 85% of India's population and 80% of its GDP. With the study, the economists documented income divergence in India.

    The findings were that 380 districts in 12 states were on average just a fifth as bright as the big cities of Mumbai and Bangalore. It also said that 90% of all the districts are just a third as bright at night as the top 10% of all districts. And the ratio worsened between 1992 and 2013.

    By 2014, the economists found, the average person in the three richest states (Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra) was three times as rich as the average person in the three poorest states (Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh), the AFP reported.

    ​There are many who have challenged the study. Member of Parliament and former Indian UN diplomat Shashi Tharoor tweeted saying that at night there is no economic activity.

    ​Rural areas are not densely populated and hence the study's premise is wrong, argued another Twitter user.


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    rural, satellite data, income inequality, urban, region, imagery, US Air Force, India, Mumbai
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