Demographics of Iran

Demographics of Iran
Changes in population of Iran

Iran's population increased dramatically during the later half of the 20th century, reaching about 75 million by 2011.[1] In recent years, however, Iran's birth rate has dropped significantly. Studies project that Iran's rate of population growth will continue to slow until it stabilizes above 100 million by 2050.[2][3] In 2008, the number of households stood at 15.3 million (4.8 person/household).[4]

According to the OECD/World Bank statistics population growth in Iran from 1990 to 2008 was 17.6 million and 32 %.[5]

Population in Iran[5]
Year Million
1971 29.35
1980 39.12
1990 54.40
2000 63.94
2004 68.07
2008 71.96
Source: OECD/World Bank

The literacy rate was 80% in 2007.[6][7][8]


Languages and ethnic groups

Iran's ethnoreligious distribution

While nearly 100% of Iran's population is fluent in modern Persian, approximately 75-80% of Iran's peoples exclusively speak Iranian languages (the most common language known as Persian - or "Farsi" as it is known in the Persian language).[9] The major groups in this category include Persians, Kurds, Gilakis, Mazandaranis, Lurs, and Baluchis. Turkic speakers, such as the Azeri, Turkmen, and the Qashqai peoples, comprise a substantial minority. The remainder are primarily Semitics such as Arabs and Assyrians or other Indo-Europeans such as Armenians. There are also small communities of Brahui in southeastern Iran. The Georgian language is spoken only by those Iranian Georgians that live in Fereydan and Fereydunshahr. All other communities of Iranian Georgians in Iran have already lost their language.

CIA World Factbook, which is based on a pre-revolution (1979) statics gives us the following numbers: Persian, Luri, Gilaki and Mazandarani 66%, Azeri and other Turkic languages 18%, Kurdish 10%, Arabs 2%, Baloch 2%[10]

Another source, Library of Congress like the Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden)[11] states Iran's ethnic group as following: Persians 65%, Azeris 16%, Kurds 10%, Lurs 6%, Arabs 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmens 1%, Turkic tribal groups (e.g. Qashqai) 1%, and non-Persian, non-Turkic groups (e.g. Armenians, Assyrians, and Georgians) 1%.[12] For sources prior to 2000, see Languages and ethnicities in Iran.

Urban Population

In addition to its international migration pattern, Iran also exhibits one of the steepest urban growth rates in the world according to the UN humanitarian information unit. According to 2005 population estimates, approximately 67 percent of Iran's population lives in urban areas, up from 27 percent in 1950.[13] The following is a list of the six most populous cities in the country.

Rank City (Province) 2007
1. Tehran (Tehran Province) 12,765,238 (conurbation and commuter towns included)[14][dubious ]
(8,088,287 in the city itself)[14]
2. Mashad (Razavi Khorasan) 2,868,350 (this does include suburban population)
(2,410,800 in the city itself)[14]
3. Isfahan (Isfahan Province) 3,430,353 (including its metropolitan area and the population living within the Isfahan conurbation)
(1,602,110 in the city itself)[14]
4. Tabriz (East Azarbaijan) 1,597,319 (city proper and main suburbs)
(1,378,935 in the city itself)[14]
5. Karaj (Tehran Province) 1,377,450[14]
6. Shiraz (Fars Province) 1,204,882[14]

Religious affiliations

The entrance to Shah Mosque (aka Imam Mosque or Shah Jame' Mosque) in Isfahan. This mosque is a fantastic example of Persian architecture during the Safavid dynasty.

Most Iranians are Muslims; 90% belong to the Shi'a branch of Islam, the official state religion, and about 8% belong to the Sunni branch, which predominates in neighboring Muslim countries.[15] 2% Non-Muslim minorities include Zoroastrians, Jews, Bahá'ís, Mandeans, Christians and Yarsan. The Bahá'í Faith, Iran's largest religious minority with a population around 300 000, is not officially recognized, and has been persecuted during its existence in Iran. Since the 1979 revolution the persecution of Bahá'ís has increased with executions, the denial of civil rights and liberties, and the denial of access to higher education and employment.[16][17]

Non-Muslim minorities have been shrinking in the past few decades as they have been emigrating and leaving Iran.[citation needed] About 11,000 to 40,000 Jews remain in Iran today, still being the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel, but it stood at about 100,000 before the Islamic Revolution. Zoroastrian, and Christian communities are seeing similar contraction.[citation needed] Today, there are about 8,000 Assyrian Christians in Iran, who belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church.


Iranian women have played an important role throughout history. Scheherazade, though fictional, is an important figure of female wit and intelligence, while the beauty of Mumtaz Mahal inspired the building of the Taj Mahal itself.

Former Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, noted for her eloquence in dealing with western media, set a new standard for aspiring Iranian female politicians while serving under President Khatami. Outstanding Iranian female academics, such as Laleh Bakhtiar have forever left a mark in the fields they contribute to.

Iranian citizens abroad

The term "Iranian citizens abroad" or "Iranian/Persian diaspora" refers to the Iranian people born in Iran and their children but living outside of Iran. Migrant Iranian workers abroad remitted less than two billion dollars home in 2006.[18]

As of 2010, there are about five million Iranians living abroad, mostly in the United States, Canada, Europe, Persian Gulf States, Turkey, Australia and the broader Middle East.[13][19][20] In particular, the Los Angeles area is estimated to be host to approximately 720,000 Iranians, earning the Westwood area of LA the nickname Tehrangeles.[21] Other metropolises that have large Iranian populations include Dubai with 300,000 Iranians, Vancouver, London, Toronto, San Francisco Bay Area, Washington D.C., Stockholm, Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt. Their combined net worth is estimated to be $1.3 trillion.[22]

Note that this differs from the other Iranian peoples living in other areas of Greater Iran, who are of related ethnolinguistical family, speaking languages belonging to the Iranian languages which is a branch of Indo-European languages.

CIA World Factbook demographic statistics

Net Iranian migration (1979-2008). A positive value represents more people entering Iran than leaving it

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.[7]


noun: Iranian/Persian(s)
adjective: Iranian


76,923,300 (July 2010 est.) / 70,049,262 according to Iran's 2006 census.


Shi'a Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 9%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Bahá'í (largest non-Muslim minority[citation needed]) 2%.


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: above 80%[6]
male: 86%
female: 75.0% (2003 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 21.7% (male 7,394,841/female 7,022,076)
15-64 years: 72.9% (male 24,501,544/female 23,914,172)
65 years and over: 5.4% (male 1,725,828/female 1,870,823) (2010 est.)

Median age

total: 26.4 years
male: 26.2 years
female: 26.7 years (2008 est.)

Population growth rate

0.792% (2008 est.)

Birth rate

16.89 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Death rate

5.94 deaths/1,000 population (2010 est.)

Net migration rate

-3.28 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.93 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate

36.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 70.86 years
male: 69.65 years
female: 72.72 years (2008 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.89 children born/woman (2010 est.)

Refugee population

Iran hosts one of the largest refugee population in the world, with more than one million refugees, mostly from Afghanistan (80%) and Iraq (10%). Since 2006, Iranian officials have been working with the UNHCR and Afghan officials for their repatriation.[23][24]
Between 1979 and 1997, UNHCR spent more than US$1 billion on Afghan refugees in Pakistan but only $150 million on those in Iran. In 1999, the Iranian government estimated the cost of maintaining its refugee population at US$10 million per day, compared with the US$18 million UNHCR allocated for all of its operations in Iran in 1999.[24]

People of Iranian Ancestry

It is estimated that some 200 million people around the world have Persian ancestry.[25]


The Parsis are the close-knit Zoroastrian community based primarily in India but also found in Pakistan. Parsis are descended from Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated to the Indian subcontinent over 1,000 years ago. Indian census data (2001) records 69,601 Parsis in India, with a concentration in and around the city of Mumbai (previously known as Bombay). There are approximately 8,000 Parsis elsewhere on the subcontinent, with an estimated 2,500 Parsis in the city of Karachi and approximately 50 Parsi families in Sri Lanka. The number of Parsis worldwide is estimated to be fewer than 100,000 (Eliade, 1991:254).


In Pakistan and India, the term "Irani" has come to denote Iranian Zoroastrians who have immigrated to Pakistan and India within the last two centuries, as opposed to most Parsis who arrived in India over 1000 years ago. Many of them immigrated during the Qajar era, when persecution of Iranian Zoroastrians was rampant. They are culturally and linguistically closer to the Zoroastrians of Iran. Unlike the Parsis, they speak a Dari dialect, the language spoken by the Iranian Zoroastrians in Yazd and Kerman. Their last names often resemble modern Iranian names, however Irani is a common surname among them. In India they are mostly located in modern-day Mumbai while in Pakistan they are mostly located in modern-day Karachi. In both Pakistan and India, they are famous for their restaurants and tea-houses. [2] Some, such as Ardeshir Irani, have also become very famous in cinema.

Ajam (Bahrain)

The "Ajam" are an ethnic community of Bahrain, of Iranian origin. They have traditionally been merchants living in specific quarters of Manama and Muharraq. The Iranians who adhere to both the Sunni or Shiite sect of Islam are Ajam, and they are different from the Huwala, who have Arab origins.

In addition to this, many names of ancient villages in Bahrain are of Persian origin. It is believed that these names were given during the Safavid rule of Bahrain (1501–1722). i.e. Karbabad, Salmabad, Karzakan, Duraz, Barbar, which indicates that the history of Ajams is much older.


Huwala are the descendants of Sunni Arabs, and the word is also mistakenly used to call Sunni Persians, who migrated from Iran to the Arabian peninsula. The Huwala are much different from the Sunni Persians who also have migrated from their original homeland "Iran" to Arabia, except that the two ethnicities share the same Islamic Sunni faith.


Y-chromosome DNA

Y-Chromosome DNA Y-DNA represents the male lineage, The Iranian Y-chromosome pool may be summarized as follows where haplogroups R1, J2, G, I, and NOP* comprise generally more than 90% of the total chromosomes.[26]

  • R1 ~ 30%
  • J2 ~ 30%
  • I ~ 10%
  • G ~ 10%
  • NOP* ~ 10%
  • Other Haplogroups 10%

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA mtDNA represents the female lineage The Iranian mitochondrial DNA shows more European lineages than the Y-DNA lineages.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Asia-Pacific Population Journal, United Nations. "A New Direction in Population Policy and Family Planning in the Islamic Republic of Iran". Retrieved 2006-04-14. 
  2. ^ U.S. Census Bureau International Data Base - Iran (retrieved 2011-07-22).
  3. ^ Iran News, "Iran's population growth rate falls to 1.5 percent: UNFP". Retrieved 2006-10-18. 
  4. ^ "Iran". Iran economy: Social indicators & living standards. Economist Intelligence Unit. June 23, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion Population 1971-2008 (pdf pages 83-85) IEA (OECD/ World Bank) original population ref e.g. in IEA Key World Energy Statistics 2010 page 57)
  6. ^ a b Table H
  7. ^ a b [1]
  8. ^ "Iran: Country Brief". Development Economics, Development Data Group (DECDG).. World Bank. June 2009.,,menuPK:312966~pagePK:141132~piPK:141107~theSitePK:312943,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  9. ^ CIA Factbook
  10. ^ "The World Factbook - Iran". Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  11. ^ See Iran in Encyclopedia of Islam, Leiden. C.E. Bosworth (editor)
  12. ^ Library of Congress, Library of Congress – Federal Research Division. "Ethnic Groups and Languages of Iran". Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Website of "Statistical Center of Iran" (in Persian)
  15. ^
  16. ^ International Federation for Human Rights (2003-08-01). "Discrimination against religious minorities in Iran". Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  17. ^ Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (2007). "A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Bahá'ís of Iran". Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  18. ^ Iran Daily - Domestic Economy - 10/22/07
  19. ^
  20. ^ Iran: Coping With The World's Highest Rate Of Brain Drain - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY
  21. ^ "Iranian-Americans cast ballots on Iran's future -". CNN. 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  22. ^ Iran Daily - Domestic Economy - 02/14/07
  23. ^ United Nations, UNHCR. "Tripartite meeting on returns to Afghanistan". Retrieved 2006-04-14. 
  24. ^ a b
  25. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). "Report for Iranian languages". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (Dallas: SIL International). 
  26. ^ Wells et al. 2001, Regueiro et al. 2006, Nasidze et al. 2008
  27. ^ Kivisild et al. 2004, Nasidze et al. 2008

External links

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