State Department documents indicate that Iranians have been immigrating to the United States since the 19th century, with significant numbers since the 1950s. The first major wave of such immigration included students who came to the U.S. for educational opportunities, most of whom decided to stay after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In addition, during or immediately following the Revolution, large numbers of religious and ethnic minorities left Iran. Many academics, entrepreneurs and professionals have also been among Iranian émigrés since 1979. More recent immigration to the U.S. has included university students, political refugees and people reuniting with their families.
Until the results of the 2010 U.S. Census data are published, the 2000 Census remains one of the most scientific demographic data available on the Iranian American community. Also, in 2008 and 2009, PAAIA commissioned Zogby International to conduct comprehensive nationwide public opinion surveys of Iranian Americans to gather current demographic and attitudinal information, and better understand who we are, what we believe and which issues matter to us most.
The data show that the Iranian American community is quite diverse in terms of ethnicity, religion and political affiliation. In addition, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, Iranian Americans are perhaps the most highly educated community in the country, with household incomes that considerably exceed that of the U.S. population at large. Iranian Americans are highly concentrated in California followed by the New York and Washington D.C. metropolitan areas. Within California, the Los Angeles area and the Bay Area have the largest Iranian American populations. Other areas with significant Iranian American populations include San Diego, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Boston and Seattle. Many Iranian Americans serve in senior leadership positions in top U.S. companies including many Fortune 100 firms.
Many others have tenured positions at the nation’s top universities, are renowned artists or have otherwise distinguished themselves in all walks of life in America. A number of these outstanding individuals have been featured in PAAIA’s “Profiles of Iranian Americans.”