This study examines whether the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) nighttime lights can be used to predict population migration in small areas in European Union (EU) countries. The analysis uses the most current data measured at the smallest administrative unit in 18 EU countries provided by the European Commission. The ordinary least squares regression model shows that, compared to population size and gross domestic product (GDP), lights data are another useful predictor. The predicting power of lights is similar to population but it is much stronger than GDP per capita. For most countries, regression models with lights can explain 50–90% of variances in small area migrations. The results also show that the annual VIIRS lights (2015–2016) are slightly better predictors for migration population than averaged monthly VIIRS lights (2014–2017), and their differences are more pronounced in high latitude countries. Further, analysis of quadratic models, models with interaction effects and spatial lag, shows the significant effect of lights on migration in the European region. The study concludes that VIIRS nighttime lights hold great potential for studying human migration flow, and further open the door for more widespread application of remote sensing information in studying dynamic demographic processes.
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