China, Russia and other authoritarian countries inflate their official GDP figures by anywhere from 15 to 30 percent in a given year, according to a new analysis of a quarter-century of satellite data, the Washington Post reports:
The working paper, by Luis R. Martinez of the University of Chicago, also found that authoritarian regimes are especially likely to artificially boost their gross domestic product numbers in the years before elections, and that the differences in GDP reporting between authoritarian and non-authoritarian countries can’t be explained by structural factors, such as urbanization, composition of the economy or access to electricity. Martinez’s findings are derived from a novel data source: satellite imagery that tracks changes in the level of nighttime lighting within and between countries over time.
“These findings indicate that the main result about democracy and autocracy is indeed driven by the differences in political institutions that characterize these regimes,” Martinez said. RTWT