Agricultural Expansion Drives Urban Growth in Brazil: Using Nightlights to Measure Urban Population Growth and Its Relationship to Rural Economic Change

Peter Richards, Brown University
Heitor Pellegrina, Brown University
Leah K. VanWey, Brown University
Stephanie Spera, Brown University

In this research we consider urban growth in the Amazon through the lens of the region’s shifting agricultural and economic landscapes. Specifically, we consider the extent to which urban growth in this region is linked to regional agricultural production and access to northern and central Brazil’s principal highways. In our analysis we draw on two remotely sensed data products, namely nighttime light emissions and land use classifications, as well as locational and road data, to consider the relationship between economic growth and the distribution of agricultural changes. The results support the argument that in Mato Grosso, Brazil, agriculture is positively correlated with faster urban growth. We situate this research and these findings within a broader discussion of how urbanization is increasingly driven by resource extraction.

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Presented in Session 27: Methods and Measurement in Population, Development, and Environment Research