The Persian Diaspora
Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, millions of Persian Speaking
peoples have migrated to other parts of the Middle East, to the
US, Europe, and other areas of the
A different kind of Immigrant
|Persian Diaspora Census, 1996
Prepared by: Iranian Christian International
Iranian Christians Report by ICI
|Egypt & North Africa||20,000|
|Philippines, Korea & Japan ||50,000|
|Russia & Other Former Soviet Union Countries||50,000|
|Spain & Portugal||15,000|
|The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)||50,000|
|United Arab Emirates & Bahrain||560,000|
|United States of America||1,560,000|
|Centra & South America & Other Parts of The World||100,000|
Most Iranians who immigrated to the United States following
Iran's 1978-1979 revolution do not fit into the typical stereotype of
an immigrant (poor, oppressed, not knowing English, etc.). Many came
to the United States with money, had already studied English,
possessed a good education, and had strong backgrounds in business.
Most Iranians in the United States are working, and many own their
own businesses. At the same time, there are still many Iranian
immigrants who have not learned English, particularly older people
Unlike many other people groups, Iranians do not isolate
themselves from other cultures. A very gracious people, many are
friendly and desire cross-cultural relationships. Unfortunately,
this desire to assimilate to an American lifestyle also shows up in a
general preoccupation with materialism.
At the same time, Iranians do not neglect their own culture. With
the largest concentration living in Los Angeles, a large Iranian
community known as Little Persia has emerged in an area just west of
Of all the Muslim people groups, the Iranians are perhaps the
most open to other views. After suffering from religious oppression
in Iran, many are disillusioned with Islam. They are suspicious of
religious dogma and/or fanaticism, and value freedom of religion.
Population: Approximately 2
Jewish, Armenian Christian, Zororastrian, and some
Language: Farsi (many speak
Highest concentration in California (est. 700,000) - primarily
located in San Fernando Valley and Orange County; second highest
in Washington DC area (est. 100,000)
The desire to assimilate into American culture opens many doors
for ministry. Eight Iranian women who either live alone or with busy
families are finding their needs met through ESL classes and times
for fellowship and relationships. Several women say that those
ministering to them in this way are angels that God has sent to
them-to take care of them, to visit them and to help them in various
ways Ð more than their own families have helped them. Several
Iranian men and women have also been attending a Sunday afternoon
"Seekers" class on "Knowing God".
Hearing God's word and worshipping in their "heart" language of
Farsi can be particularly meaningful to these Iranians. One Iranian
man who professes to be a believer, and came to Christ through an
American church, desires fellowship and discipleship in the Farsi
language. Another Iranian man has been attending an American church
and is seeking to deepen his understanding of Christ and Christianity
Demographical profile of the Iranian immigrant community
in the United States based on the 1990 US census
From a small beginning
of perhaps no more than 15,000 individuals in 1965,
the Iranian population of the United States grew rapidly to 121,000 in 1980. 1990
estimates are between 800,000 to 1,100,000.
The marked increase in immigration can be explained through two important
events. First due to the substantial wealth of the country prior to the 1979
revolution, many families and the government chose to send students abroad
for higher level education. By 1977, Iran had more students abroad than any
other country in the world at 227,497. By 1979 in the US alone, there were
51,310 college students, ranking first amongst foreign nationalities.
Second, after the revolution in 1979, not only did many of these students
opt to remain in the US, but many of their relatives also decided to join
them, later becoming naturalized citizens (or residents).
Based on the 1990 census figures, one can draw a fairly accurate portrait of
- Although coming from a non-English speaking country, 84% of
Iranian-Americans speak fluent English.
- 46% have a bachelors degree or higher, which ranks the group not only
higher than any other recently-arrived immigrant group, but also higher than
natives in terms of educational achievement.
- This high academic achievement has undoubtedly contributed to the high
occupational and financial accomplishment of Iranians as well. 43% of
Iranians are in professional and managerial positions, 35% in technical and
administrative, 10% are in various services and the balance are spread over
farming, craft and laborers.
- 48% of the Iranian-American community are dual income earners and 22% own
their own businesses.
- Median family income is $55,501 (substantially above the national average
of $35,492) and per capita income is $18,040.
- 92% of Iranians have a mortgage.
References: Demographic data of Iranians in the US, Iranian American