Estimating the size of urban populations using Landsat images: a case study of Bo, Sierra Leone, West Africa

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This is the third paper in a 3-paper series evaluating alternative models for rapidly estimating neighborhood populations using limited survey data, augmented with aerial imagery.


Bayesian methods were used to sample the large solution space of candidate regression models for estimating population density.


We accurately estimated the population densities and counts of 20 neighborhoods in the city of Bo, Sierra Leone, using statistical measures derived from Landsat multi-band satellite imagery. The best regression model proposed estimated the latter with an absolute median proportional error of 8.0%, while the total population of the 20 neighborhoods was estimated with an error of less than 1.0%. We also compare our results with those obtained using an empirical Bayes approach.


Our approach provides a rapid and effective method for constructing predictive models for population densities and counts utilizing remote sensing imagery. Our results, including cross-validation analysis, suggest that masking non-urban areas in the Landsat section images prior to computing the candidate covariate regressors should further improve model generality.