April 30, 2012

The Iranians Count Census Coalition Releases the Special Tabulation Results from the 2010 U.S. Census


The Iranians Count
Census Coalition Releases the
Special Tabulation
Results from the 2010 U.S. Census

For Immediate Release
Contact: Nobar Elmi
(202) 379-1638
[email protected]

Los Angeles, CA – The Iranians Count 2010 Census Coalition (“ICCC”) is continuing its efforts to ensure that the number of Iranian Americans in the United States is accurately reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.  With the results from the 2010 Census officially tabulated, the ICCC recently requested a special tabulation report on the number of individuals who identified themselves as Iranian, Iranian American, Persian, or Persian American in the 2010 Census.   

According to the Census Bureau, a total of 289,465 responded to the question of race in the 2010 Census by marking “x” in the “Some Other Race” box and writing Iranian/Persian alone or in a combination.  The majority of the write-in responses came from California (157,225), while Texas (20,440) and New York (12,095) received the second and third highest write-in responses.  See attached / Click here to download the detailed report.  Funding for this report ($3,100) was generously sponsored by our ICCC partners, Farhang Foundation and Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA).

The tally for Iranian write-in responses only represents people who made a concerted effort to write in these particular responses in 2010. It does not represent, nor is it reflective of the total count of the number of individuals of Iranian ancestry in America.

Federal data on Iranian Americans is not derived from the question of race in the Decennial Census but rather from question of ancestry, which is collected through the annual American Community Survey (ACS). Data on Iranian ancestry from the annual ACS is available on the Census Bureau’s American Factfinder website.  The ACS is an ongoing statistical survey by the U.S. Census Bureau sent to a small percentage of the population on a rotating basis throughout the decade.  It has replaced the census long form, which was sent to one-in-six households every ten years.  It includes a question on ancestry and provides communities with demographic, social, economic, and housing information. 

Like other ethnic groups, the number of Iranian Americans has historically been under-represented in Census data.  The under representation can be attributed to the lack of participation in the census surveys as well as the method used by the Bureau to obtain such information.  For example, although the ACS produces estimations on ancestry, it covers only a sample population of 3 million individuals per year (about 12.5% of the total population every five years).  Unlike the ACS, the Decennial Census reaches every household and has no margin of error.  However, it only asks ten basic questions, excluding ancestry.      

As part of its 2010 Census outreach, and reflecting the limitations of the racial and ethnic options on the census form, the ICCC encouraged Iranian Americans to check the “Some Other Race” box and write in Iranian or Iranian American.  Similar write-in campaigns were simulated by other Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) communities and intended to demonstrate the importance of ancestry or ethnic identity beyond race as well as the disconnect that many of these communities feel with the method of classification used in the Decennial Census.  

The increase in respondents who opted to self categorize as “Some Other Race” in the 2010 Census is one of the many indicators that the current race question may be too limited for our rapidly changing society.  As such, the ICCC has joined a broader coalition of MENA populations in requesting that the Census Bureau form a working group committee to advise the Bureau on future research and communications with such communities.  In addition, the Coalition has requested that the Census Bureau conduct research on how to expand the existing options to allow for the accurate collection of data on MENA origin populations. This could be conducted through both the American Community Survey and testing for questions on the 2020 Census.

By demonstrating that not only hundreds of thousands of Iranian Americans participated in the 2010 Census but also voluntarily self identified their ancestry or ethnic origin, the community is in a better position to affect positive change in the methods used by the Census Bureau to accurately reflect the Iranian American community as well as voice its concerns and needs as a robust and growing community within the United States.


The ICCC was formed to ensure maximum and consistent participation by Iranian Americans in the U.S. Census. It consists of forty-seven non-profit Iranian American organizations.   Through an aggressive marketing campaign led by the ICCC, Iranian Americans across the country learned about the importance of participating in the Census and how to accurately complete Census forms.  These efforts were undertaken to ensure that the Iranian American community is fully counted in the United States.  More info at www.iranianscount.org

Why is an accurate count of Iranian Americans so important?  An accurate count can increase:

  • Awareness: This may lead to the designation of Iranians as a minority, which enhances employment, university admission, and loan qualification opportunities.

  • Funding: Iranians may be able to receive funding for community-specific work.

  • Political Influence: Elected officials target ethnic constituencies to solicit their feedback and votes.

  • Public Service: Some local, state and national organizations are required to provide services that address the needs of a specific ethnic and minority community (i.e., Persian speaking nurses).

  • Civic Uses: Ethnic organizations depend wholly on ancestry data to identify, locate and mobilize their constituencies. Civil rights agencies also require ancestry data to monitor discrimination based on national origin.

  • Research Uses: Social scientists, journalists and other researchers rely on census and ACS data to study ethnic population groups, demographic trends, and economic and educational mobility.




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