We apply deep learning to daytime satellite imagery to predict changes in income and population at high spatial resolution in US data. For grid cells with lateral dimensions of 1.2 km and 2.4 km (where the average US county has dimension of 51.9 km), our model predictions achieve R2 values of 0.85 to 0.91 in levels, which far exceed the accuracy of existing models, and 0.32 to 0.46 in decadal changes, which have no counterpart in the literature and are 3–4 times larger than for commonly used nighttime lights. Our network has wide application for analyzing localized shocks.
Khachiyan, Arman, Anthony Thomas, Huye Zhou, Gordon Hanson, Alex Cloninger, Tajana Rosing, and Amit Khandelwal. 2022. "Using Neural Networks to Predict Micro-Spatial Economic Growth." American Economic Review: Insights 4 (4). https://doi.org/10.1257/aeri.20210422.