Each of the major data providers has a slightly different interface for downloading data (they also often have different data formats--this will be dealt with in the section "using data"). There are too many interfaces to deal with them all, but most can be figured out once you are used to the main models. Some providers provide searchable data bases, others provide spreadsheets which can be down loaded directly and some provide both. The main data providers for which examples will be given are 1) the World Bank; 2) the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); 3) the United Nations Population Division and 4) the US Census International Database. (Note that for nearly all data bases you must keep the Control button pushed if you are making more than one choice from a drop down list.)
World Bank: The World Bank has more than 40 databases available on its World DataBank page. Most of these data bases have a similar interface and produce results in standard formats. Most have interfaces in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. The World Development Indicators (the most used data base) has data on 214 countries for 1,287 indicators with time series running from 1960 to the present. It also provides data for 32 different income or geographic aggregations. In addition to simply downloading data, the data bases often allow the creation of maps, graphics and the calculation of statistics for the data selected. For detailed instructions on using the World Bank data bases click here.
FAO: FAO provides two interfaces for downloading its FAOSTAT date--Classic and New. These pages will concentrate on the New interface as the Classic is no longer being updated and will undoubtedly eventually disappear. The FAOSTAT database is made up of more than 40 separate databases. For detailed instructions click here.
UN Population Division: The UN Population Division provides for downloading data both as prepared XLS formatted tables or as output from an on-line data base. For data on more than a few countries the prepared XLS tables are the most efficient source, while for five countries or less the data base works well. This data source is restricted to population data and projections (to 2100) at both the national and regional levels. The United Nations Population Information Network provides links to a large number of other population data sources from multiple organizations in database and other formats. For detailed instructions click here.
US Census International Data Base: This data base contains a range of population data which can be searched and downloaded at the country and regional levels. The time-series data starts in 1950 to the present with projections to 2050. Data can be downloaded either in XLS or Comma Separated Values (CSV) formats, For detailed instructions on using this data base click here.