Did We Shrink?

Iranians & the 2010 U.S. Census


Did We Shrink?
by hossein.hosseini

Last month the much awaited results for the number of Iranians in the 2010 Census came out. Are you ready? The count is a whopping 289,465!! Say what? Ten years ago, in census 2000, we were told there are 338,000 Iranians. Did we shrink by 49,000? Now before you all bent out of shape and God forbid start an “Occupy Census Bureau” movement, let me explain. Trust me; I know a thing or two about numbers as I studied Statistics and I do Market Research for a living.

Every 10 years, since 1940, there has been a census in the Unites States. Before Census 2010, two questionnaires were used to collect information: a "short form" with only basic questions such as age, sex, race; and a "long form" with the basic short-form questions plus about 50 additional questions on socioeconomic and housing characteristics. Only a subset of households received the long-form questionnaire—about one in every six in 2000. The long form has a question on ancestry, and that’s how we got the number 338,000 Iranians back in the year 2000. We all knew that these numbers were low and blamed it partly on Iranian immigrants being suspicious of Census activities and did not want to be identified by their race.

Now fast forward to 2010 Census. For the first time it was decided that the 2010 Census will be a short-form-only census. This is because the decennial long form has been replaced by the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a nationwide, continuous survey designed to provide demographic, housing, social, and economic data every year. The ACS replaced the long form in 2010 and thereafter by collecting long-form-type information throughout the decade rather than only once every 10 years.

Knowing that we need a more accurate count of Iranians, an organization was formed by the name of Iranians Count 2010 Census Coalition or ICCC for short. The idea was to ensure maximum participation by Iranian Americans in the U.S. Census. Surprisingly for the first time ever, over 47 non-profit Iranian American organizations came together. We had great participation from Iranian media, businesses, charities and other civic organizations. Under the leadership of our own Mrs. Nadia Babayi, as partnership specialist, an aggressive marketing campaign was launched to inform Iranian Americans across the country about the importance of participating in the Census and how to accurately complete Census forms. Everyone was encouraged to answer question number 9, the race question, by marking “Some Other Race” and then write-in “Iranian”, “Persian”, or “Iranian-American”.

We waited and waited and finally after paying the Census Bureau $3,100 (that’s Federal Government for you), thanks to funding by PAAIA and Farhang Foundation, the special tabulation came out last month indicating that 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 best way to think about this number is to say there were 289,465 people who proudly declared that they are Iranians. There might be two reasons for this low count; First, Iranians are well blended in the American culture and no longer wish to be identified by their roots; secondly, Iranians are still suspicious of Census activities and do not want to be identified by their race. Therefore, a great number must have checked the "white" box under the race question. Fact is many Iranians say goodbye to the old ancestry as soon as they become a U.S. citizen, especially those born in the United States.

So what’s an accurate count? Remember the American Community Survey (ACS), I mentioned earlier? While it is only mailed to bout 3 million addresses per year, ACS produces estimations on ancestry. Unlike the ACS, the Decennial Census reaches every household and has no margin of error. I looked at a 3 years estimate, or 9 million addresses, to get a better picture of the race/ancestry question. According to ACS for the 3 years 2008 – 2010, there is an estimated 448,722 Iranians living in the United States. Of course since this is a sample data, it has a higher margin of error, as we statisticians call it. The margin of error for the Iranian table is plus or minus 10,862; which means there might be as many as 459,584 Iranians based on ACS data. Now if we assume there were just that many Iranians who marked their race as “White”, which is a reasonable assumption, then our count could be as high as 919,168.

We may never know the accurate number of Iranians living in the United States. Even the Census Bureau acknowledges that the number of Iranian Americans has historically been under-represented in Census data. Looking at the ACS data, there are some interesting facts about Iranians vs. general population that you can brag about. Here are some: People with B.S. Degree or higher 59% vs. 28%; People with Masters degree or higher 30% vs. 10%; People who entered the U.S. before 2000, are 75%; People born outside U.S. is 65%; Median Household Income $68,000 vs. $51,000; Are in professions such as Business, Management, Art 54% vs. 36%; Owner occupied (home-owners) 60%; Median Home Value $480,000 vs. $187,000. As many of you know most of us (48%) live in California, followed by New York/New Jersey (9.1%), Greater Washington D.C. including Virginia and Maryland (8.3%), and Texas (6.7%). Although the special tabulation data (some other race, Iranian) puts the percentage of Iranians in California at a higher number of 54.3% indicating the ICCC campaign was more effective in California.

So there you have it. The number of Iranians in America is not as high as 2 millions as some people suggest and is not a low of 289,465 either. Census 2010 was still a success for the Iranian community since all organizations came together and for the first time in a long time we became united under a single issue. We now have to wait until Census 2020. Till then we can count on the shameful reality show “Shahs of Sunset”. Perhaps this show would shine some light on us and next time we can proudly say we are “Iranians”. Until then, there are two other sources that perhaps can give you a more accurate count. They are: the Interest Section of Iranian Government in Washington D.C. and the number of people who attended Gogoosh concert when she first came to the United States!! As every single Iranian attended her concerts. Good luck getting information from either source. Trust me, I tried with no avail.

In closing these are my thoughts and analysis. I am sure there are smarter people who can discuss/analyze these numbers better; if you want to discuss this further, drop me a line. Love to hear your thoughts.


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by hirre on

"race"? wtf? Shouldn't it be "ethnic group"? When is iranian-american a race?

Dr. Mohandes

George Lopez Impersonator

by Dr. Mohandes on

Raul's brand of humor remind me of the kind of jokes that GL uses in his stand ups and shows.


1- any dumbo would knows that one can get access to persian keyboards any where in the usa. oh sorry...how are you man:)?

2- Whatever english he uses is much better than yours.

3- You should take your own advice and move back to matamoros or san juan where you and carmela can start a beautiful life. Orale carmelita...que pasa?vamonos.

4- how many of those freshmen you had the honor of presenting life lessons to ended up graduating.

Mardom Mazloom

Raoul ma boule,

by Mardom Mazloom on

1) Did you use a french keyboard  to  type vis-à-vis, or just copy past it from the web?

1- bis) Who gave you that permission?

2) Are you iranian to comment in a full iranian website?

3) Why don't you  post comments on a website in your own tongue? Rasti, what's your mother tongue? Hate?

4) What do you teach to your students? Hatematics? 



by Raoul1955 on

I am assuming that you are just passing through the US, otherwise more questions for you:

1) How come you haven't purchased a keyboard that allows you to type in your own native tongue?

2) Are you using English because you want a wider audience?

3) Do you reside in the US?  If so, why?  Can't you move back to your country of origin where you feel comfortable among folks who speak your own native tongue, and you can use an Iranian keyboard for typing?

And I certainly hope that you are NOT a US Citizen, otherwise there are more issues vis-à-vis your attitude toward the US!

And here is what I used to tell my freshman students for over two decades: Losers have excuses.

Mohammad Ala

Persian letter keyboard

by Mohammad Ala on

Answer to Raoul or whatever his name is:  not having access to a Persian keyboard. 



by Raoul1955 on

Why did you reply here in English and not your own native language?

Mohammad Ala

No surprise.

by Mohammad Ala on

Iranians place their personal interests/benefits ahead of anything else.  Many Iranians do not care about Iran; therefore WHY should they write Iranian or Iranian-American in the US census?

In a monthly gathering of SBG group (in November of 2011) in Southern California, more than 80% of Iranians had changed their given names to Marc, Matt, Mark, Johnny, Jay, Ed., David, Nick, etc., and the moderator David Kanani said he preferred to speak in English language (this group calls itself Iranian-American business owners and executives).



More problems with the census than you know...

by bahmani on

I worked on the "Successful" campaign by Iranian American organizations. It was anything but. A few folks lined their pockets with most of the funds raised, and the result was an utter disaster, as you can see, less than if we had left well enough alone.

The point I made was, it was more important to lobby to change the census form to include our own box labeled, "Iranian". Making someone write in "Iranian" next to "SOME OTHER RACE" is off putting (FU I"m White!!) too hard and invites mistrust and understandable suspicion. Putting a quick X next to pre-printed "Iranian", among the many other nationalities, is easier, looks formal, is obviously more trustworthy on a government form.

Sounds simple right? Oh No! The geniuses who ended up mis-managing this fiasco, would not have it, they insisted that a write-in option backed with Maz Jobrani ads showing census workers appearing to enter homes (illegal) and appearing to fill out the form for you (illegal) run last minute, and barely once on a few satellite TV shows, and then on the internet (cuz YouTube is free!) would cover it.

Well, it didn't. So much so, the numbers a full 10 years later, were way off. PAAIA split the cost with Farhang and spent $3100?? Dudes, you should have waited a month. The data is actually free!

Do the rest of you see my point?

Ask anyone who filled out "White", they will tell you why they did not fill out "Some Other Race" (Jeez writing it now sounds even worse than it did then!). The flaw in the census is, Iranian is not one race. It is treated more like a minority or ethnicity in the US, but actually it is a nationality of origin. You can also be black and Iranian. No, really. I've seen one.

My point was that why can't we have our own box just like Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Samoan? Hell Guamanian even sounds like Iranian?

The flaw in the census is that it assumes race when it is really trying to ask race and national origin.

Iranians are mostly White. Some who pitch for the Texas Rangers are Asian, some who play wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders are Black. Some who spend 20 Million just to go into space are Stupid.

The Census needed to be corrected to ask Race AND then National Origin.

Then, we would check the box for White, and then check the box for Iranian.

That's what I wanted us to mobilize and lobby for, that would have fixed everyone's problems (because Japanese and Chinese and Vietnamese, are not races, they are all Asian with different National Origin).

Blame the disaster on the orgs not listening or understanding what the real problem was, and were too afraid to argue back to the census folks in time to change the form, and tried to force an ad campaign driven solution with not enough airtime bought (they were cheap too) that was never going to work in the first place. Or, that someone just really really wanted to make the TV spot with Maz.

Either way they didn't know what they were doing, and groups like PAAIA and Farhang mis-ran the project by force, from LA, clearly into the ground. I mean look at it. Less than the number in the 2000 census? No way.

After realizing this, the Bay Area finally bailed on the coalition and we ran our own TV shows, print ads, meetings and email campaigns to hold a call-in program to talk to the folks at home and almost everyone who called in agreed it was the right thing to do, after hearing the benefits of being identified as Iranians, and the civic and local government budgets and services that were determined and affected by it, and promised to write in Iranian next to "Some Other [dirty] Race".

But nobody was happy about it. Because it was a flawed census. You would think we could muster the collective agreement and support to lobby this at least.

What I learned from this project was that as a result of our arrogance and lack of collective trust and thought, we have a long way to go. And no wonder we aren't free.

You are right though, maybe by 2020 we'll finally get it and by thinking of helping everyone in America with a better census, will finally help ourselves, for a change.

To read more bahmani posts visit: //brucebahmani.blogspot.com/

shahram G

Please don't include me, Esfand

by shahram G on

As a matter of fact, I am very comfortable with being Iranian,now and forever...long live Iran...



by Raoul1955 on

You seem to be about two centuries behind in your thinking.  Just imagine what kind of mess we would be having in this great nation if every immigrant group started to 'segregate' and 'classify' itself as you are suggesting.  For example, Azaris from Iran who immigrated to the US and became Americans have to list themselves as 'American-Iranian-Azaris' and so on.  And let's say a Christian originally from Urmia, Iran who became an American has to label himself/herself as [for example]  'Christian-Azari-Iranian-American' based on your mindset.

Also, there is no Iranian race, or Jewish race, etc., except in the minds of those who prefer to divide humans...

Esfand Aashena

This is the Ahmadinejad effect!

by Esfand Aashena on

Remember in 2009 millions upon millions of Iranians came out to vote to eject him from office so as to stop the embarassment of Iran and Iranians in Iran and worldwide?  Well, we all know what happened there and how we were treated.

Even if Ahmadi won fair and square (like his other claims) the fact that he still represents Iran and Iranians one way or another was/is reason enough for some to shake or lower their heads and not claim being an Iranian in the census.

I do not think it was being suspicious of the Census Bureau.  It's just not being comfortable with being Iranian.  

Everything is sacred