The president of the Population Reference Bureau, William Butz, says the group's goal is to be a source of accurate information on all things demographic, in contrast to data supplied by other groups that might have political or financial agendas.
"We think it's very important in that kind of world for there to be at least one organization whose job it is not to take an advocacy point of view, but simply to provide the best unbiased, apolitical data on population and its trends," he says.
You can get a fact-filled page of information by clicking on the name of a country, for data on population, birth and death rates, life expectancy, contraceptive use, literacy, and so on. You can also see how different countries compare on a large number of key indicators with one of the most useful tools on the Population Reference Bureau site, called the Datafinder. "On the website we have about 95 variables - population, environment and health-related variables - on 220 countries and 28 world regions, all easily accessible around the world," he says.
To make that information even more accessible, , most pages on prb.org are mostly text, so they load quickly, even on a relatively slow dial-up Internet connection. That design feature is a nod to the site's visitors, who include a large number of international users. "Our users include students overseas. They include government ministers, parliamentarians, and people who are interested in knowing what's going on, what the past has been, what the present is, and what the future might be for population trends and their implications," he says.
The Washington-based Population Reference Bureau - which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year - began putting its material online seven years ago. In addition to the raw data, prb.org offers articles on topics including aging, poverty, gender and rural populations, and increasingly those articles appear in French and Spanish, as well as English. Population Reference Bureau is online at prb.org.