Using Satellite Imagery and Deep Learning to Evaluate the Impact of Anti-Poverty Programs
The rigorous evaluation of anti-poverty programs is key to the fight against global poverty. Traditional approaches rely heavily on repeated in-person field surveys to measure program effects. However, this is costly, time-consuming, and often logistically challenging. Here we provide the first evidence that we can conduct such program evaluations based solely on high-resolution satellite imagery and deep learning methods. Our application estimates changes in household welfare in a recent anti-poverty program in rural Kenya. Leveraging a large literature documenting a reliable relationship between housing quality and household wealth, we infer changes in household wealth based on satellite-derived changes in housing quality and obtain consistent results with the traditional field-survey based approach. Our approach generates inexpensive and timely insights on program effectiveness in international development programs.