DP17220 Measuring Firm Activity from Outer Space

Author(s): Katarzyna Bilicka, Andre Seidel
Publication Date: April 2022
Keyword(s): global firm networks, multinational firms, nightlight data
JEL(s): F23, H26, H32
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=17220

To understand how global firm networks operate, we need consistent information on their activities, unbiased by their reporting choices. In this paper, we collect a novel dataset on the light that factories emit at night for a large sample of car manufacturing plants. We show that nightlight data can measure activity at such a granular level, using annual firm financial data and high-frequency data related to Covid-19 pandemic production shocks. We use this data to quantify the extent of misreported global operations of these car manufacturing firms and examine differences between sources of nightlight.