Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in International and Development Economics (MSIDEC)


College of Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Jesse Anttila-Hughes


A history of institutional oppression and genocide has shaped Native American communities across the United States today, reflected in large disparities of socioeconomic outcomes and infrastructure. Due to a lack of comprehensive data and macroeconomic research, alternative forms of spatial data and theories regarding human settlement are needed to develop an understanding ofthis stagnation. In our efforts to better understand growth on Native American reservations, we utilize nighttime lights data to proxy for economic output in these geographic areas, measuring the settlement characteristics ofreservations themselves and against surrounding U.S. regions. Through a series of log-log regressions that focus on Zipf’s scaling law and settlement scaling theory, we measure population and production variables to compare Native and non-Native populations in California. We find that both groups demonstrate scaling coefficients close to 1, consistent with settlement scaling theory. When measured with radiance, there is greater variation, but California demonstrates more increase in brightness as population grows. On reservations in California and throughout the country, increases in population shows no correlation with radiance increase and this measure of infrastructure is stagnated across all cross-sections. With these findings, we conclude our test of this methodology and theory to confirm that societies scale up in productivity with population and other economic growth variables. There are clear indicators of how growth has stagnated on Native American reservations, despite proximity to higher-growth regions, which calls for greater emphasis on improving economic and development outcomes for these communities.