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Iranian Americans

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Iranian Americans

Iranian American
ایرانیان آمریکا
Template:Image array
Total population
448,722 (2010 ACS)[1]
Regions with significant populations
California, New York, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC.[2]
American English, Persian and minority languages (see Languages of Iran).
Majority of Agnosticism, Atheism, Irreligion
Islam, Bahá'í Faith, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism.[3]

Iranian-Americans or Persian-Americans are Americans of Iranian ancestry or people possessing Iranian and American dual citizenship. Iranian-Americans are amongst the highest educated people in the United States.[4][5] Iranian-Americans have historically excelled in business, academia, the sciences, arts and entertainment – but have traditionally shied away from participating in American politics or other civic activities.[6]


Iranian American is used interchangeably as Persian-American,[7][8][9][10] partially due to the fact[11] that Iran was called Persia officially prior to 1935; as well as the fact that Iran and Persia continue to be used interchangeably since classic times.[12] There is a tendency among Iranian-Americans to categorize themselves as "Persian" rather than "Iranian", mainly to disassociate themselves from the Iranian regime and the negativity associated with it, and also to distinguish themselves as being of Persian ethnicity, which is around 65% of Iran's population[7][13] Majority of Iranian-Americans are of Persian-speaking backgrounds, however there is also a significant number of non-Persian Iranians within the Iranian-American community,[13][14] leading some scholars to believe that the label "Iranian" is more inclusive, since the label "Persian" excludes non-Persian minorities from Iran.[13] The Collins English Dictionary uses a variety of similar and overlapping definitions for the terms "Persian" and "Iranian".[15][16]


Iranian immigration to the United States has been continuous since the 1980s. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of foreign born from Iran in the United States increased by 74 percent.[17] Today, the United States contains the highest number of Iranians outside of Iran. The Iranian-American community has produced significant numbers of individuals notable in many fields, including medicine, engineering, and business. The community chiefly expanded in the early 1980s, following the Iranian Revolution and its abolition of the Iranian monarchy.

Pre- and post-revolution migration

Prior to the Islamic revolution in Iran and the severance of diplomatic relations between the two countries, America and American universities were very popular among Iranians, and this popularity was a major force in drawing numerous Iranian students to the United States. During the 1977–1978 academic year, of about 100,000 Iranian students abroad, 36,220 were enrolled in American institutions of higher learning. During the 1978–1979 academic year, on the eve of the Iranian revolution, the number of Iranian students enrolled in American institutions rose to 45,340, and in 1979–1980 the number reached a peak of 51,310: at that time, more students from Iran were enrolled in American universities than from any other foreign country. Out of a total of 263,938 foreign student enrollment in the United States in the 1978–1979 academic year, 17% were from Iran. The expansion of Iranian economy and the resultant higher revenues were the cause of investments in students' education abroad, either directly by the government's financial aid services and/or indirectly by the students' families. This investment paid off and resulted in an excellent cohort of Western-educated professionals. Due to Iran's increasing demand for high-level manpower in the years prior to 1979, the majority of students were returning home after graduation to work including those who had received financial aid in exchange to serve the government or industry upon graduation. During and after the revolution, most students did not return to Iran and those who did, were gradually purged from the newly established Islamic Republic. Many students who graduated abroad after the revolution also did not return due to ruling clergy's repression. As the result, the educated elite who left Iran after the revolution and the new graduates in the United States who chose not to return home created a large pool of highly educated and skilled Iranian professionals in the United States. Today, over 1.5 million Iranians have chosen to leave Iran for other countries due to Islamic government's authoritarian practices.[18]


Although Iranians have lived in the United States in relatively small numbers since the 1930s, a large number of Iranian-Americans are immigrants to the United States after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there were 338,000 Americans tracing heritage to Iran. The 2000 U.S. Census undercounted the numbers of many ethnic groups and minorities, including the Iranian-Americans.[19] The U.S. Government and other sources estimate that the numbers of Iranian-Americans are close to 2 million.[20][21][22][23][24][25]


Federal data on Iranian Americans is not derived from the question of race in the Iranian Americans are most likely far more numerous in the United States than census data indicate, according to research done by the Iranian Studies Group, an independent academic organization, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The group estimates that the number of Iranian Americans may have topped 691,000 in 2004—more than twice the figure of 338,000 cited in the 2000 U.S. census.[4]

According to extrapolated U.S. Census data and other independent surveys done by Iranian-Americans themselves in 2009, there are an estimated one million Iranian-Americans living in the U.S.,[6] with the largest concentration—about 520,000 people—living around Los Angeles.[6][27] For this reason, the L.A. area with its Iranian American residents is sometimes referred to as "Tehrangeles" or "Irangeles" among Iranian-Americans.[28] Beverly Hills and Irvine both have large communities of Iranian Americans.[2][29] Half of the nation's Iranians reside in the state of California alone. Other large communities include New York/New Jersey, which have 9.1% of the U.S.' Iranian population, followed by Washington D.C./Maryland/Virginia (8.3%) and Texas (6.7%).[1][2]


Template:Pie chart Iranians of all religious backgrounds in the United States have comparatively a mix of liberal, conservative and nationalist political leaning and opinions. Iranian-Americans thus are largely secular and tend to practice moderate, less traditional religious forms, but have strong cultural traditions.

Iranian-Americans are mostly irreligious, but also of Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Baha'i and Zoroastrian religious backgrounds.[3] "There are religious and ethnolinguistic differences among the Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, Zoroastrian, Christian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Kurdish, and Assyrian groups".[30]

According to a 2012 Zogby-PAAIA poll most Iranian-Americans appear not to practice any particular religion at all. The poll found the remaining balance split among Muslims, Christians, followers of Judaism, Baha'is and Zoroastrians.[3] Calculating the percentage of Christian Iranian Americans is difficult because many Iranian Christians are of Armenian or Assyrian origin and self-identify as such rather than as Iranian.[31]


While the predominant non-English language among Iranian Americans is Persian; Iranian Americans who are not ethnic Persians often speak the language of their ethnic group as well (commonly Armenian, Kurdish, Azeri, or Arabic).


The majority of Iranian-Americans are ethnic Persian, with sizeable ethnic minorities being Iranian Azerbaijanis, Armenian-Iranians, Iranian Kurds, Iranian Arabs, and others.[32]

According to Hakimzadeh and Dixon, members of religious and ethnic minorities such as Bahai'is, Jews, Armenians, and Assyrians were disproportionately represented amongst the early exiles of the 1978–79 revolution.[33]


Nearly all Iranian-Americans are either citizens (81%) or permanent residents (15%) of the United States (2008 survey).[34] Iranian-Americans regard their culture and heritage as an important component of their day to day life and their overall identity within the United States.[35]


Occupations and income

The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently conducted a study that found Iranian immigrants among the top 20 immigrant groups with the highest rate of business ownership, contributing substantially to the U.S. economy. According to the report, there are 33,570 active and contributing Iranian American business owners in the U.S., with a 21.5% business ownership rate. The study also found that the total net business income generated by Iranian Americans is $2,559,450,000.[36] Almost one in three Iranian American households have annual incomes of more than $100K (compared to one in five for the overall U.S. population).[37]


According to Census 2000, 50.9 percent of Iranian immigrants have attained a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 28.0 percent national average.[4] According to the latest census data available, more than one in four Iranian-Americans holds a master's or doctoral degree, the highest rate among 67 ethnic groups studied.[5] However, according to the latest U.S. Census news, Taiwanese Americans have the highest educational levels with at least 73.3 percent having a Bachelor's degree or higher.[38]

The earliest Iranian professionals in the U.S. before the 1979 revolution were the physicians {39}. They were mostly young temporary trainees who worked as medical interns or residents. Some established themselves to continue practice beyond the residency stage. Their motives to extend their stay in the United States were more geared towards professional reasons than economics. Researcher from John Hopkins University In 1974 reported in the journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), the total number of Iranian physicians in the U.S. in the year 1971 was 1625 {39-40 }.
In 2013 another report was published in Archive of Iranian Medicine (AIM)that post revolution the number of Iranian Medical School graduates in the United States  had grown to 5045[39}.Later, those who migrated to the U.S. after the 1979 revolution were mostly experienced physicians who came with their families and intent to stay permanently. At the present time, there are a 5,050 Iranian Medical School Graduates in the United States{41}. Another attempt was made by University of California San Diego (UCSD) to identify Iranian Physicians of second generation who have studied in the United States Medical Schools. Unfortunately due to the fact that American Medical Association (AMA) data base only reflects the name of medical school, and no mention of country of birth nor the ethnic origin of medical graduates, therefore such study appear to be an impossible task. Yet a local survey of San Diego County which was made revealed astonishing figure of about ten US medical graduates of Iranian origin to every one of Iranian Medical School graduates in San Diego County {42}. If this figure could be applied to the whole United State we could estimate that there are at least 50000 Iranian American Physician practicing medicine in the United States.
It should be also mentioned that prior to revolution the 1626 physicians migrated to the United States were 15% of all medical graduates of Iranian medical school graduates while the 5045 medical graduates who migrated post Islamic Revolution represent only 5% of total Iranian Medical Graduates.(39)

Reference 39. Ronaghy HA, Williams KN, Baker TD, Emigration of Iranian Physicians to the United States, A Ten-Year Follow-up of Graduates of Shiraz Medical School. Pahlavi Med J. 1973; 4:174-193. 40. Ronaghy HA, Cahill K Baker TD, Physician Migration to the United States: One Country’s Transfusion is Another Country’s Hemorrhage. J Am Med Assoc. 1974: 227: 538-542 41. Ronaghy HA, Shajari A, Islamic Revolution and Physician Migration Archive of Iranian Medicine 2013; 16: 10


Another major group of highly trained Iranian professionals in the U.S. are university professors.


Though Iranian-Americans have historically excelled in business, academia and the sciences, they have traditionally shied away from participating in American politics or other civic activities.[6]

An August 2008 Zogby International poll, commissioned by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, found that approximately one half of Iranian Americans identified themselves as registered Democrats, in contrast to one in eight as Republicans and one in four as independents (2008).[34]

The same poll indicates that more than half of Iranian Americans cite domestic U.S. issues, including issues that are not unique to Iranian Americans, as the most important to them. In contrast, one quarter of Iranian Americans cite foreign policy issues involving U.S.-Iran relations and less than one in ten cite the internal affairs of Iran as being of greatest importance to them.[34]

From 1980 to 2004, more than one out of every four Iranian immigrants was a refugee or asylee.[4] The PAAIA/Zogby poll also cites that almost three-quarters of Iranian Americans believe the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran is the most important issue relating to U.S.-Iran relations. About the same percentage, however, believe diplomacy is the foreign policy approach towards Iran that would be in the best interest of the United States. 84% support establishing U.S. Interest Section in Iran.[34] Nearly all Iranian Americans surveyed oppose any U.S. military attack against Iran.[39]

Ties to Iran

According to a survey conducted in 2009, more than six in ten Iranian Americans have immediate family members in Iran, and almost three in ten communicate with their families or friends in Iran at least several times a week. An additional four in ten communicate with their families or friends in Iran at least several times a month. This study indicates an unusually close relationship between Iranian Americans and Iranians.[39]


According to the Public Affairs of Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), nearly half of Iranian-Americans surveyed in 2008 by Zogby International have experienced or personally know Iranian Americans who have experienced discrimination due to their ethnicity or country of origin. The most common types of discrimination reported are airport security check, social discrimination, racial profiling, employment or business discrimination and discrimination at the hands of immigration officials.[34]

Notable individuals

Business/technology: Iranian-Americans are among the most educated and successful communities in the U.S., according to a report by Iranian Studies group at MIT, Iranian-Americans have founded and/or participated in senior leadership positions of many major US companies, including many Fortune 500 companies such as GE, Intel, Verizon, Motorola, Google, and AT&T.[40] Pierre Omidyar, founder/CEO of eBay is of Iranian origin, as well as the founder of Bratz Isaac Larian. Filmmaker and entrepreneur Shaahin Cheyene is of Iranian origin. In 2006, Anousheh Ansari, co-founder of the Ansari X Prize, became the first female tourist in space. Ansari is also the co-founder and former CEO of Prodea Systems Inc. and Telecom Technologies, Inc. Other well-known Iranian-American entrepreneurs include designer Bijan Pakzad, entrepreneur Sam Nazarian, entrepreneur Shabnam Rezaei, Omid Kordestani of Google (named as a titan in the Time 100), CEO of YouTube Salar Kamangar and Sina Tamaddon of Apple Inc.

Philanthropy: Many Iranian Americans are active philanthropists and leaders in improving their community. In 2006, the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center was the recipient of a 10 million dollar donation from an Iranian American couple based in Houston, Texas.[41][42] The University of Southern California was also the recipient of a 17 million dollar gift from an Iranian-American,[43] as was San Francisco State University which also received a 10 million dollar gift from an Iranian-American couple.,[44] and Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital ($4 million),[45] Portland State University ($8 million),[46] and UC Irvine ($30 million),[47][48] among others.

Science/academia: Well-known Iranian Americans in science include Firouz Naderi director at NASA, Ali Javan inventor of the first gas laser, Gholam A. Peyman, the inventor of LASIK, Lotfi Asker Zadeh, Cumrun Vafa, and Rashid Massumi, M.D., a pioneer in the fields of electrophysiology and cardiology, among many others.

Media/entertainment: Well-known media personalities of America, of Iranian descent, include Christiane Amanpour, Asieh Namdar, Roya Hakakian, Yara Shahidi and Rudi Bakhtiar. There are several Iranian American actors, comedians and film crew, including the Academy-Award nominee and Emmy Award winner Shohreh Aghdashloo, actresses Catherine Bell, Sarah Shahi, Nasim Pedrad, and Bahar Soomekh, comedian Maz Jobrani, filmmaker Kamshad Kooshan, actor Adrian Pasdar, producer Bob Yari, Farhad Safinia, author and performer Shahram Shiva, and Daryush Shokof.

Sports: Professional tennis player Andre Agassi, TNA wrestler Shawn Daivari, professional Mixed Martial Artist Amir Sadollah, and professional soccer players Sobhan Tadjalli, Alecko Eskandarian and Steven Beitashour. Semi-Professional Baseball Player Cory Enayat

Politics: The son of the late

See also


External links

  • Iranian-American Organizations - Comprehensive list
  • Iranian-American workers by occupation, New York Times
  • Iran Census Report (2003): Strength in Numbers – The Relative Concentration of Iranian Americans Across the United States
  • Fact-sheet on the Iranian-American Community (ISG MIT)
  • Migration Information Source -Spotlight on the Iranian Foreign Born
  • Interest Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Washington D.C. – Consular affairs
  • Documentary about Iranian-Americans. PBS (2012)
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