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Population Index 63(2):189-204. Summer 1997.
Copyright ©1997, Office of Population Research, Princeton University

Internet Resources for Demographers

Thomas A. Gryn


This paper provides a description of demographic resources available on the Internet. These resources include census data, online databases, and home sites of demographic organizations. The description of demographic Internet resources is divided into five sections: North American demography, international demography, general interest items, health-related sources, and geography-related sources. The paper is followed by two appendices. The first provides a brief introduction to the Internet and to Internet access; the second contains a quick-reference list of Internet sites. Readers who are unfamiliar with the Internet should consider reading Appendix I before proceeding. Because one paper cannot reference every demographic resource on the Internet, this paper should be seen primarily as an attempt to impart enough knowledge for readers to seek out further information on their own, according to their particular research interests.

Previous compilations of Internet resources have been made for demography by Malsawma (1996) and McCracken (1996). While these prior works have focused exclusively on World Wide Web resources, this paper both indexes resources found on the World Wide Web and lists selected non-WWW resources.

Overview of Resources

North American Demography (United States and Canada)

A wealth of information on U.S. demography is available directly from the U.S. Bureau of the Census on the Internet (ftp://ftp.census.gov http://www.census.gov). Among the many offerings at the census Web site are:

The Census Bureau also maintains a number of mailing lists for discussion of topics related to census activities and data (E-mail: majordomo@census.gov). Put "help lists" in the message field of your E-mail to get a description of these mailing lists.

In addition to the U.S. Census Bureau’s online sites, many other Internet locations offer census materials and data. For example, the University of California at Berkeley maintains a list of Gopher servers devoted to census data, including many with data summaries from the 1990 census (gopher://infolib.lib.berkeley.edu:70/11/eres/resdbs/plan/stats/censdata). Moreover, the University of Michigan Documents Center maintains a Web site (http://www.lib.umich.edu/libhome/Documents.Center/stdemog.html) listing many of the major sites that offer U.S. demographic data. The site provides brief descriptions of what is available at each listed site.

For those seeking a more descriptive approach to U.S. information, the U.S. Demography World Wide Web (WWW) home page of the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) (http://infoserver.ciesin.org/datasets/us-demog/us-demog-home.html may be useful. In addition to a number of well-written, concise descriptions of datasets, such as the Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS), the site contains information on where data and information for each entry may be found on the Internet. The University of Pennsylvania maintains a list of the Web sites of several statistical agencies (http://lexis.pop.upenn.edu/stats.html/), including the National Science Foundation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the latter (http://stats.bls.gov/) maintains summaries of CPS and Consumer Price Index data. If a user cannot find a governmental agency through the University of Pennsylvania site, another avenue is to visit the GovBot database (http://www.business.gov/Search_Online.html), which has indexed over 100,000 governmental information sites in a searchable format. Finally, summaries of newly released U.S. demographic information can be found at the White House Social Statistics Briefing Room (http://www.whitehouse.gov/fsbr/demography.html).

A number of Internet sites are dedicated to particular U.S. datasets. The following list should give some indication of the wealth of data and information available to U.S. survey users via the Internet:

The Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) page at the University of Minnesota (http://www.hist.umn.edu/~ipums/) offers a number of attractive features, including a downloadable codebook, an extract service for data, and even entire samples from the survey for downloading.

In terms of Internet offerings, similarities exist between Statistics Canada (http://www.statcan.ca/; gopher://gopher.statcan.ca/) and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Information available from Statistics Canada includes details on Canadian fertility, mortality, population projections, ethnicity, and religion. The site also maintains the Canadian Socio-Economic Information Management System (CANSIM) time-series database, from which users can extract data for a small fee. Moreover, an archive of research papers is available. Much of the demographic information from Statistics Canada can be found in the organization’s demography documents section (http://www.statcan.ca/english/Pgdb/People/popula.htm).

The University of Toronto maintains a Canadian General Social Survey home page (http://www.epas.utoronto.ca:8080/~cjones/pub/cangss.html), which includes a study description and bibliography. Readers interested in Canadian data should also read the Health section of this paper, where Health Canada’s Web site (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/) is described.

International Demography

The Internet presence of the United Nations is substantial. The main home page of the United Nations (http://www.un.org/), containing a large collection of documents, departmental information, and data resources, is supplemented by Yale’s UN information gateway (http://www.library.yale.edu/un/un3b8.htm), which catalogs the main demographic sites of the United Nations. Also helpful is the United Nations Drug Control Programme links page (http://www.undcp.org/unlinks.html), which helps users locate UN Web sites according to department and interest.

Of all the information resources maintained by UN organizations, the Population Information Network (POPIN) (http://www.undp.org/popin/popin.htm) may be the most useful site for demographers. The POPIN site includes:

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (http://www.unicef.org/; gopher://hqfaus01.unicef.org/1) maintains a number of online documents, including The State of the World’s Children, The Progress of Nations, and country profiles of social indicators and UNICEF activities in each nation. The International Programs Center of the U.S. Bureau of the Census (http://www.census.gov/ftp/pub/ipc/www/) maintains a searchable international demographics database, as well as HIV/AIDS summary tables and free downloadable software packages, including the Integrated Microcomputer Processing System (IMPS) and the Population Analysis Spreadsheets (PAS) collection. The World Bank home page (http://www.worldbank.org/) describes World Bank programs in agriculture, economics, the environment, and infrastructure development. The site also maintains profiles of projects in participant nations and provides contact addresses for further information on World Bank activities.

In addition to allowing direct downloading of Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) samples after registration, the DHS home page (http://www.macroint.com/dhs) contains a fair amount of supporting information for the DHS, including basic fact sheets for DHS surveys in participant nations, information on DHS status by region, and an online newsletter. Also useful for obtaining DHS information is Population Network News (http://www.worldbank.org/html/hcovp/phnflash/pnn/contents.html), which describes ongoing DHS and World Bank projects worldwide. Another valuable international resource is the CIA World Fact Book (http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/pubs.html), which presents information on the world’s nations, including basic demographic descriptions.

The Population Council (http://www.popcouncil.org/) Web site allows users to download a number of software packages, including the DATABANK database program and the PCMAP mapping program. It also supplies a link to the FIVFIV population projection program download site (http://www.visitus.com/popsite/). Moreover, the site maintains sections for the journals Population and Development Review and Studies in Family Planning. Finally, it offers job announcements, newsletters, and a collection of working paper abstracts. Another site of interest to demographers studying the developing world is the KZPG Population News Network (http://www.iti.com/iti/kzpg), which maintains a list of online data, articles, and file archives regarding overpopulation.

Many Internet sites are area-specific in their focus. The Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) (http://www.nidi.nl/) is an excellent site for researchers interested in Europe. The site contains information on NIDI activities, as well as a comprehensive list of international Internet sites. Eurostat (http://europa.eu.int/en/comm/eurostat/eurostat.html) is a major source of European statistical information; however, much of the data available at this site are accessible only at a charge.

The Latin American Demographic Centre in Chile (CELADE) (http://www.eclac.org/celade-eng/celadei.html ) maintains a collection of journal abstracts and bibliographies for articles related to Latin America. The Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library at the Australian National University (http://coombs.anu.edu.au/WWWVL-AsianStudies.html) indexes resources by country and region of interest. Finally, for those interested in finding international data collections, the Norwegian Social Science Data Archives Clickable Imagemap (http://www.nsd.uib.no/cessda/europe.html) supplies a graphics-based index of data collection sites worldwide.

A number of demographic resources originate from sites in the United Kingdom. Many of these are indexed at the Social Science Information Gateway (http://www.sosig.ac.uk/roads/subject-listing/UK/demog.html). A mailing list (E-mail: census-news-request@mailbase.ac.uk) distributes items of news about U.K. census datasets and census research, and also circulates details of conferences and workshops relevant to the U.K. census community. The Data Archive at the University of Essex (http://dawww.essex.ac.uk/) is one of the major data collection sites in the United Kingdom. Through its Web site, users can search the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) catalog by subject, geographic location, or title of study. DATALIB from the Edinburgh University Data Library (EUDL) (http://datalib.ed.ac.uk/) maintains the UKBorders dataset, U.K. spatial data available to U.K. users, and information on some population data sources, such as the 1971, 1981, and 1991 censuses.

General Interest


Two sites provide indices of directly downloadable data: Yale’s Direct Access to Numeric Data on the Internet site (http://statlab.stat.yale.edu/SSDA/internet.html) and the Data on the Net home page of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) (http://odwin.ucsd.edu/jj/idata/). The latter is searchable by topic.

Much of the dataset collection at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) (http://www.icpsr.umich.edu) is downloadable via FTP. Each ICPSR dataset entry includes an abstract and information about the data source and the sampling method used to collect the data. Also, many ICPSR entries contain online codebooks. However, some data and documentation are accessible only to ICPSR members. The ICPSR home page has added a search engine that allows users to search the holdings catalog for particular datasets or by topic.

For those more interested in data collections than in downloadable data, a good starting point is the Yahoo data collections page (http://www.yahoo.com/Social_Science/Data_Collections/), which indexes most of the major collection sites on the Internet. For example, one collection site indexed by Yahoo is UCSD’s Data Collection (http://ssdc.ucsd.edu/ssdc/catalog.html). The UCSD online dataset catalog is organized by topic, and each entry contains a concise description, links to codebooks, and a bibliography. Yale’s Social Science Data Archive (http://statlab.stat.yale.edu:80/SSDA/catalog/) is similar to UCSD’s, although the Yale catalog is also searchable by keyword.

Those interested only in statistical data may find StatLib at Carnegie-Mellon University (http://lib.stat.cmu.edu/) to be of interest. StatLib maintains a collection of datasets and electronically distributes statistical software, including STATA and XLISP, for general use. Also, the CIESIN (Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network) database and organization guide (http://infoserver.ciesin.org/home-page/library.html) offers a fairly detailed list of the databases and statistical organizations on the Internet.

Sites offering downloadable population software include the POPULUS Population Modeling package home page (http://ecology.ecology.umn.edu/software/populus.html) and the Social Science Data Analysis Network (http://www.psc.lsa.umich.edu/SSDAN/ ). The latter offers software to help introduce students to demography. Moreover, the Project GeoSim server from Virginia Tech (http://geosim.cs.vt.edu/) has a rich assortment of software for users to download, including:

Online Journals, Newsletters, and Working Papers

A number of demographic journals have begun to offer online abstracts, tables of contents, or even whole issues. These include:

These journals, along with many others, are indexed at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Demography and Ecology (CDE) Online Newsstand (http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/cde/library/news.htm), at POPIN’s Journals and Newsletters home page (http://www.undp.org/popin/journals.htm), and at the MEDWEB Electronic Publications page (http://www.gen.emory.edu/MEDWEB/alphakey/electronic_publications.html) . The CDE also maintains a list of Internet repositories for working, discussion, and conference papers (http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/cde/library/papers.htm ).

Internet Guides, Indices, and Search Services

Several indices gather together many of the major demographic resources on the Internet. While the sheer number of sites indexed at some of these locations may be overwhelming, browsing these collections gives users a higher probability of finding sites that match their particular interests than browsing less extensive sites.

Many of the search services available for searching the Web are indexed at Netscape’s home site (http://home.netscape.com/escapes/internet_search.html). Two of the most popular Web search services are AltaVista (http://altavista.digital.com/) and Dogpile (http://www.dogpile.com); both services allow users to search thousands of Web sites by keyword or phrase. Other examples of search services include:

It should be noted that, since FTP sites are often linked to Web sites, users can employ Web browser programs to perform FTP file transfers.


The home page of the Population Reference Bureau (http://www.prb.org/prb/) maintains a searchable World Population Data Sheet, a back issue archive of Population Today, and a collection of demographic Internet resources, including an overview of U.S. and international demography.

A mailing list is maintained at the Australian National University for the discussion of general demography and demographic techniques. To join, send E-mail to majordomo@coombs.anu.edu.au, and type "subscribe demographic-list" in the subject field of your E-mail.

For those seeking employment, the demography department home page at the University of California at Berkeley hosts a list of current demography job openings collected from various sources (http://demog.berkeley.edu/joblist). Florida State University maintains an employment exchange service on their server (http://mailer.fsu.edu/~popctr/employ.html). The FSU site lists job announcements and resumes from job seekers.

A basic description of POPLINE, the world’s largest bibliographic database of population studies containing almost 250,000 abstracts, is available online (http://www.jhuccp.org/popwel.stm). The site includes information on methods for accessing POPLINE. POPLINE provides citations and abstracts of worldwide literature on population, family planning, and related health issues, such as AIDS, maternal and child health, and health information dissemination.

Finally, migration researchers should examine the WWW Virtual Library for Migration and Ethnic Relations (http://www.ercomer.org/wwwvl/), which lists migration-related online research centers and programs, journals, data archives, and mailing lists.


For researchers interested in U.S. health issues, the home page of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (http://www.cdc.gov/) can be very useful. In addition to providing information on employment and funding opportunities, the site offers downloadable Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports and HIV/AIDS Surveillance Reports, as well as disease-specific and health-risk information. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) section of the CDC also maintains a home page (http://www.cdc.gov/nchswww/), which includes news releases, fact sheets, and mortality tables.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) (http://www.nih.gov/) distribute cancer and AIDS information online. The NIH site also contains information on NIH grants and contracts, a list of NIH research labs and institutes on the Web, and a list of online health-related journals. Included in this list is the home page of the Journal of the American Medical Association (http://www.ama-assn.org/public/journals/jama/jamahome.htm), which permits access to AMA journal pages and free searching of the National Library of Medicine’s AIDS journal database. Another useful source of information on HIV/AIDS morbidity and mortality is the CDC’s National AIDS Clearinghouse (http://www.cdcnac.org/), which maintains AIDS-related fact sheets, U.S. government reports, statistical information, and WWW link collections.

Health Canada (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca) provides Canadian health profiles and statistics, plus information on Health Canada programs and funding. This site is searchable by topic or other keyword. Also, Statistics Canada’s health subsection (http://www.statcan.ca/english/Pgdb/People/health.htm) is worth visiting. It provides statistics on morbidity and mortality, life expectancy, and smoking and alcohol use among Canadians.

The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) (http://www.paho.org/) offers the magazine Perspectives on Health, a publication catalog, and detailed country health profiles online. Another site with country-by-country health descriptions is maintained by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) (http://www.info.usaid.gov/). This site also offers reports on USAID activities and programs worldwide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) home page (http://www.who.ch/) contains a number of resources on world health conditions, including online copies of World Health Report and Weekly Epidemiological Record, and home pages for many of WHO’s major international programs. The Statistical Information System (WHOSIS) offers a number of online WHO data sources, including general health and AIDS information, and data classified by disease.

The Office of Population Research (OPR) at Princeton University maintains a collection of links relevant to research on contraception and reproductive health (http://opr.princeton.edu/ec/contrac.html). OPR also hosts a site devoted to information on emergency contraception (http://opr.princeton.edu/ec/ec.html). Lastly, the Epidemiology WWW Virtual Library (http://www.epibiostat.ucsf.edu/epidem/epidem.html) collects information organized by region on health-related organizations, agencies, and academic programs on the Internet.


The Topographically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) mapping service (http://tiger.census.gov/) allows the interactive creation of TIGER maps online; the Demographic DataViewer (http://plue.sedac.ciesin.org/plue/ddviewer) also offers users the possibility of linking TIGER data to STF3A census data and creating thematic maps online. The TIGER home page at the U.S. Bureau of the Census (http://www.census.gov/ftp/pub/geo/www/tiger/) maintains a TIGER FAQ, as well as product and ordering information for TIGER data.

The University of Minnesota’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) page (http://www.gis.umn.edu/rsgisinfo/rsgis.html) has collected and organized many of the major GIS Internet resources by topic. The topics include job information, online journals and FAQs, U.S. and international sites, online data sources, and relevant USENET newsgroups. The AEGIS home page at the University of California at Berkeley (http://www.ced.berkeley.edu/aegis/index.html) provides many examples of GIS projects.

The Geography WWW Virtual Library (http://www.icomos.org/WWW_VL_Geography.html) indexes many of the major geographic resources on the Internet by country. This site is supplemented by the geography page at EINet Galaxy (http://www.einet.net/galaxy/Social-Sciences/Geography.html ). For step-by-step instructions on how to use the ARC/INFO program, visit the ARC/INFO tutorial page (http://boris.qub.ac.uk/shane/arc/ARChome.html ).


This paper has offered a summary of the major demographic resources available on the Internet. The Internet has a history of high turnover: locations change, some sites disappear, and others are added. While some of the sites listed in this paper are likely to have become outdated by the time this article is published, I hope that the indices and collection sites included will provide the reader with a point of reference for locating useful information. I maintain a supplementary Web site for this paper at http://members.tripod.com/~tgryn/demog.html. Finally, readers are encouraged to review the sources cited in the reference section.



Bainbridge, William S. 1995. Sociology on the World Wide Web. Social Science Computer Review 13(4):508-23.

Breece, James H. 1995. Electronic bulletin boards for economists: realizing their potential. Social Science Computer Review 13(1):21-32.

Garson, G. David. 1995. Political science and public administration: an Internet guide. Social Science Computer Review 13(4):453-505.

Kehoe, Brendan P. 1996. Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner’s Guide. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall PTR.

Levine, John R. and Carol Baroudi. 1994. The Internet for Dummies. 2nd ed. San Mateo, CA: IDG Books.

Malsawma, Zuali. 1996. A guide to population-related home pages on the World Wide Web. Population Today 24(10):4-5.

McCracken, Kevin. 1996. Resources for population studies on the World Wide Web. Issues 37:47-53.

McMillan, Gary A., Margaret R. Dittemore, and Carol R. Kem. 1995. Internet resources for sociology. College and Research Libaries News 56(9):639-43.



The Internet can be thought of as a worldwide network that links thousands of smaller computer networks to each other. Through the Internet, computer users can exchange data and electronic mail. The main advantage of the Internet is the speed of information retrieval: electronic transmission of information is much faster than by other means.

The development of the World Wide Web (WWW) has been one of the major Internet innovations in recent years. The World Wide Web is a large part of the Internet, but it is incorrect to use World Wide Web as a synonym for the Internet. Non-WWW portions of the Internet include E-mail, FTP, Gopher, and Telnet. The Web combines images and text to create a graphically rich environment for information presentation. As on the larger Internet, information on the Web is stored on "host" computers, or servers, which are linked to other computers via the Internet. Thus, users must connect to a host computer before they can gain access to the information stored there.

Documents and sites on the Web are encoded using HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and then stored on a host computer. Particular software programs, also called browsers, are used for translating hypertext documents. Browsers download the hypertext code from the host computer and translate the code into what appears on the user’s screen. Three common browser programs are Netscape’s Navigator, Microsoft’s Explorer, and Lynx. Navigator and Explorer allow text, pictures, and sound to be downloaded to the user’s computer, while Lynx is restricted to a text-only display of information. To access a site or location on the Web, users enter the site name, which usually begins with http (short for HyperText Transfer Protocol), into the browser program. Site names are often referred to with the abbreviation URL (for Uniform Resource Locators), and the actual sites on the Web are commonly referred to as home pages. The syntax of URLs can be described as pathways that the browser program follows to access the appropriate hypertext document. Both Navigator and Explorer are point-and-click programs that are relatively simple to learn; words or entries that appear colored (usually blue) on the screen are clickable links to other Web sites. Users of Lynx move a cursor up and down the text that appears on the screen, clicking on highlighted text to connect to the sites linked to that text. A convenient feature of newer Web browsers like Navigator and Explorer is their ability to use other electronic transfer techniques, such as E-mail, FTP, Gopher, and Telnet, to access non-WWW portions of the Internet.

E-mail is an abbreviation for electronic mail. It refers to messages sent from one user to another, often by way of the Internet. In order to send E-mail to someone, it is necessary to enter into an E-mail program’s address field the recipient’s user name and host computer name. Eudora, Elm, and Pine can be mentioned as examples of E-mail programs. An example of an E-mail address is gryn.1@osu.edu, where gryn.1 is the user name and osu.edu is the name of the host computer. The @ sign separates the two units of the address.

E-mail is frequently used for connecting users who have common interests with each other via mailing lists, also called discussion groups or listservs. The mailing lists described in this paper include general demography mailing lists and census-specific mailing lists. At times, such groups will create a list of answers to commonly asked questions; these lists are called FAQs, an abbreviation for Frequently Asked Questions. For example, the U.S. Bureau of the Census maintains a FAQ for the TIGER geographic system, answering questions about the locations at which TIGER data can be obtained. That FAQ can be found on the Web at http://www.census.gov/ftp/pub/geo/www/tiger/faq-index.html .

FTP is an abbreviation for File Transfer Protocol. It is a means of transferring files from one site to another on the Internet. Many online sites have a service known as anonymous FTP, which enables users to connect to other Internet hosts using the login name "anonymous" or "guest" to access publicly available information and data. As on the Web, it is necessary for users to know the name of the site they wish to access. FTP resources in this paper begin with "ftp:".

Gopher is a text-based information distribution system that arranges information in a hierarchical structure, organizing it by site and topic. Gopher was one of the first major attempts to organize information on the Internet in a logical, hierarchical fashion. In recent years, Gopher has gradually been replaced by the World Wide Web as the main information distribution system of many organizations; however, a number of resources are still available only via Gopher. In this paper, Gopher sites are designated by "gopher:// ".

Telnet is a communications program used to connect computers to a remote system (Telnet site). Users enter the name of the host computer to which they wish to connect and will normally be prompted for a login name and password. For example, any user can connect to the AT&T InterNIC host computer ds.internic.net. After entering the username "guest", users can access InterNIC’s directory of Internet users, search InterNIC’s collection of Internet help documents, or use Archie and Gopher via the facilities of the InterNIC host computer. Resources in this paper that are accessed via this program begin with "telnet:".

For those not affiliated with Internet-connected institutions, it is still possible to link to the Internet. Two means of gaining access to the Internet are through an organization known as Freenet, or through a commercial company. Freenet is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to offer the general public low-cost access to the Internet. Freenet services are available in many parts of the United States and Canada, and the organization continues to expand. Readers interested in information about Freenet’s availability in their area should contact the Organization for Community Networks, PO Box 32175, Euclid, Ohio 44132. OCN's voice phone number is (216) 731 9801; the organization can also be reached on the Web at http://ofcn.org/.

Many commercial services in North America allow access to the Internet. Among these are CompuServe, Delphi, Genie, and America Online. There are also local Internet access suppliers, mainly small bulletin board systems that tend to be less expensive than larger services.

One organization that may be of assistance to demographers in developing nations is the UN Population Information Network (POPIN). For information about POPIN, contact: POPIN Co-ordinator, Population Division, Department for Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis, United Nations Secretariat, 2 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017; telephone (212) 963 3179; E-mail:popin@undp.org.


North American Demography (United States and Canada)

International Demography

General Interest


Online Journals, Newsletters, and Working Papers

Internet Guides, Indices, and Search Services