A pervasive issue in social and environmental research has been how to improve the
quality of socioeconomic data in developing countries. Given the shortcomings of standard
sources, the present study examines luminosity (measures of nighttime lights visible
from space) as a proxy for standard measures of output (gross domestic product). We
compare output and luminosity at the country level and at the 1° latitude × 1° longitude
grid-cell level for the period 1992-2008. We find that luminosity has informational
value for countries with low-quality statistical systems, particularly for those countries
with no recent population or economic censuses.