Seminar: Spatial Economics and GIS

Course content

Location and spatial relationships are important attributes that can be applied to almost all data. However, the spatial dimension is often overlooked in traditional economics where more effort has been put into for instance time series analysis. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in modelling and applying spatial data, possibly due to the advent of GIS software and GPS technology. Analyzing spatial data broadens the range of potential research questions, adds validity to identification strategies, and improves on the visualization of results.


MSc programme of Economics
The seminar is primarily for students at the MSc of Economics

Learning outcome

Students will be introduced broadly to the field of spatial econometrics including spatial weight matrices and models with spatial lags. We also delve into the realm of spatial data, distinguishing between vector and raster data and how to extract, utilize, and display it. Examples will be shown using ArcGIS, QGIS, or Stata. Furthermore, as a source of inspiration we will discuss selected recent economic papers that utilize spatial data innovatively. For instance, Yanagizawa-Drott uses the direction of mountain slopes in Rwanda as an instrument for village level radio reception; Michalopoulos and Papioannou exploit the arbitrary division of historical ethnic groups by national state boarders in Africa to investigate the effect of national institutions; Jean et al. combine high-resolution satellite images, lights at night and survey data along with convolutional neural networks to predict poverty, and Bjerge and Fisker show how plot level exposure to drought reveals distinct reaction patterns among small-scale farmers in Nigeria. For a basic introduction to spatial econometrics, we refer to Le Sage and Pace, 2009.

Planning/start-up meeting, research and writing process of the seminar paper, sessions with presentation of own paper and critical evaluation/feedback to another student´s paper, actively participating in discussions at class.

Before the session a "so-finalized-as-possible"-draft of the paper must be uploaded in Absalon. After the presentations, the student submit an edited version of the paper in the Digital Exam portal as the final exam paper. The aim is that students use the presentation sessions as an opportunity to receive and use the constructive feedback to improve the paper.

The following list includes a spatial econometrics textbook and four examples of applied research papers.

  • Le Sage and Pace, 2009: Introduction to Spatial Econometrics.
  • David Yanagizawa-Drott, 2015: Propaganda and Conflict: Evidence from the Rwandan Genocide. Quarterly Journal of Economics.
  • Stelios Michalopoulos and Elias Papaioannou, 2014: National Institutions and Subnational Development in Africa. Quarterly Journal of Economics.
  • Neal Jean et al. 2016: Combining satellite imagery and machine learning to predict poverty. Science.
  • Bjerge and Fisker, 2016: How do Nigerian small-scale farmers react to a drought? Working Paper.

Advantage, but not a requirement, to have completed Adv. Microeconometrics, Adv. Development Economics (macro and/or micro aspects).

Suggestions of dates in the seminar: Date, time (from/to) must be indicated as specified in the attached letter.
• First lecture: February 8th, 2017 at 10.00-12.00
• Second lecture: February 15th, 2017 at 10.00-12.00
• Presentations/Workshops: May 10 and 17, 2017

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
- seminar paper in English.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
- up to 20 % censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

The student must in a satisfactory way demonstrate that he/she has mastered the learning outcome of the course and the objectives stated in the Curriculum.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Seminar
  • 20
  • Project work
  • 186
  • English
  • 206