Satellite data strongly suggests that China, Russia and other authoritarian countries are fudging their GDP reports
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. 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. He then looked at how changes in nighttime lighting correlated with the countries' self-reported GDP measures. But maybe there's something about authoritarian regimes that makes the relationship between light and GDP different in those countries. Beyond that, he found that authoritarian countries previously ruled by communist governments were particularly likely to report high GDP relative to nighttime lighting, as were authoritarian countries that were coming up on an election year.