BACKGROUND: Sub-national figures providing information about the wealth of the population are useful in defining the spatial distribution of both economic activity and poverty within any given country. Furthermore, since several health indicators such as life expectancy are highly correlated with household welfare, sub-national figures allow for the estimation of the distribution of these health indicators within countries when direct measurement is difficult.We have developed methods that utilize spatially distributed information, including night-time light imagery and population to model the distribution of income per capita, as a proxy for wealth, at the country and sub-national level to support the estimation of the distribution of correlated health indicators. RESULTS: A first set of analysis are performed in order to propose a new global model for the prediction of income per capita at the country level. A second set of analysis is then confirming the possibility to transfer the country level approach to the sub-national level on a country by country basis before underlining the difficulties to create a global or regional models for the extrapolation of sub-national figures when no country data set exists. CONCLUSIONS: The methods described provide promising results for the extrapolation of national and sub-national income per capita figures. These results are then discussed in order to evaluate if the proposed methods could not represent an alternative approach for the generation of consistent country specific and/or global poverty maps disaggregated to some sub-national level.