Suessmilch Lecture

Quality Adjusted Population Density by David Weil

Digital Lecture, June 02, 2020

As part of the Suessmilch Lecture series, David Weil from Brown University gave a talk on Quality Adjusted Population Density.


“Quality Adjusted Population Density"


Quality adjusted population density (QAPD) is population divided by land area that has been adjusted for geographic characteristics.  We in turn derive weights on these geographic characteristics from a global regression of population density at the quarter-degree level on geographic characteristics as well as country fixed effects.  Using three different datasets on spatial population distribution as well as a variety of specifications, we show, first, that while conventionally measured population density is uncorrelated with income per capita across countries, there is a strong negative correlation between income per capita and QAPD; second, that the magnitude of this relationship exceeds the structural effect of density on income, suggesting a negative correlation between QAPD, on the one hand, and productivity or factor accumulation, on the other; and third, that higher QAPD in poor countries is primarily due to population growth since 1820.

About the speaker

David N. Weil is James and Merryl Tisch Professor of Economics at Brown University, director of the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Wealth and Income Inequality Project at Brown, and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Weil has written widely on various aspects of economic growth, including the empirical determinants of income variation among countries, the contribution of health improvements to growth, the geographic determinants of development, the measurement of income inequality, the accumulation of physical capital, international technology transfer, population growth, and the use of satellite observation as a measurement tool. His textbook on growth has been translated into six languages. He has also written on assorted topics in demographic and health economics including the economic impacts of malaria and salt iodization, population aging, Social Security, the gender wage gap, retirement, and the relationship between demographics and house prices. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1990.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.