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Middle Eastern Americans

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Middle Eastern Americans
Total population
3.5 million[1] (2020)
1.06% of the population
10.5-11.0 million including American Jews
Regions with significant populations
Mostly in the major metropolitan areas
Languages
English

Middle Eastern Americans are Americans of Middle Eastern background. Although once considered Asian Americans, the modern definition of "Asian American" now excludes people with West Asian backgrounds.[2]

According to the 2020 United States census, over 3.5 million people self-identified as being Middle Eastern and North African ethnic origin. However, this definition includes more than just the Middle East.[3]

History[edit]

One of the first large groups of immigration from the Middle East to the United States came by boat from the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s. Although U.S. officials referred to them as Turkish, most referred to themselves as Syrian, and it is estimated that 85 percent of these Ottoman immigrants came from modern Lebanon. Later, new categories were created for Syrians and Lebanese.[4]: 4 

The number of Armenians who migrated to the U.S. from 1820 to 1898 is estimated to be around 4,000[5] and according to the Bureau of Immigration, 54,057 Armenians entered the U.S. between 1899 and 1917, with the vast majority coming from the Ottoman Empire.[6] The largest Armenian American communities at that time were located in New York City; Fresno; Worcester, Massachusetts; Boston; Philadelphia; Chicago; Jersey City; Detroit; Los Angeles; Troy, New York; and Cleveland.[7]

Another wave of immigration from the Middle East began in 1946, peaking after the 1960s. Since 1968, these immigrants have arrived from such countries as Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon.[4]: 11 

MENA census category[edit]

The U.S. Census Bureau is still finalizing the ethnic classification of MENA populations for the 2030 U.S. census. Middle Eastern Americans are currently counted as racially White on the census, although many do not identify as such. In 2012, prompted in part by post-9/11 discrimination, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee petitioned the Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency to designate the MENA populations as a minority/disadvantaged community.[8] Following consultations with MENA organizations, the U.S. Census Bureau announced in 2014 that it would establish a new MENA ethnic category for populations from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arab world, separate from the "white" classification that these populations had previously sought in 1909. The expert groups felt that the earlier "White" designation no longer accurately represents MENA identity, so they successfully lobbied for a distinct categorization.[9][10] This process does not currently include ethnoreligious groups such as Sikhs, as the Bureau only tabulates these groups as followers of religions rather than members of ethnic groups.[11]

According to the Arab American Institute, countries of origin for Arab Americans include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. As of December 2015, the sampling strata for the new MENA category includes the Census Bureau's working classification of 19 MENA groups, as well as Armenian, Afghan, Iranian, Israeli, Azerbaijani, and Georgian groups.[12]

The new category will identify "Israeli" as a choice and raises questions as to how the large U.S. Jewish population (7-8 million) will identify.[13] In prior censuses, American Jews were treated as a religion rather than an ethnicity and thus not enumerated.[13]

The new question on the U.S. census will identify members of the MENA category to include:[14]

"Individuals with origins in any of the original peoples of the Middle East or North Africa, including, for example, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, and Israeli."

Population[edit]

Ancestry U.S. Census Bureau
(2017)[15]
Estimates
Arab Americans 2,005,223 3,700,000[16][17]
Armenian Americans 485,970 500,000–1,500,000[18][19]
Iranian Americans 476,967 1,000,000–2,000,000[20][21][22][23]
Turkish Americans 222,593 1,000,000–3,000,000+[24][25][26]
Israeli Americans 139,127
N/A
Coptic Americans
N/A
200,000–1,000,000[27][28][29][30]
Assyrian, Chaldean, or Syriac Americans 101,135 110,807–600,000[31][32][33][34][35]
Kurdish Americans
N/A
15,000–20,000[36]
Berber Americans
N/A
3,000
Jewish Americans
N/A
7,000,000–8,000,000[37]

The population of Middle Eastern Americans includes both Arabs and non-Arabs. In their definitions of Middle Eastern Americans, United States Census Bureau and the National Health Interview Survey include peoples (diasporic or otherwise) from present-day Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Armenia.[38][39]

As of 2013, an estimated 1.02 million immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) lived in the United States, making up 2.5 percent of the country's 41.3 million immigrants.[40] Middle Eastern and North African immigrants have primarily settled in California (20%), Michigan (11%), and New York (10%). Data from the United States Census Bureau shows that from 2009 to 2013, the four counties with the most MENA immigrants were Los Angeles County, California; Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit), Cook County, Illinois (Chicago), and Kings County, New York (Brooklyn); these four counties collectively "accounted for about 19 percent of the total MENA immigrant population in the United States."[41]

By ethnicity[edit]

Although the United States census has recorded race and ethnicity since the first census in 1790, this information has been voluntary since the end of the Civil War (non-whites were counted differently from 1787 to 1868 for the purpose of determining congressional representation).[42] As such, these statistics do not include those who did not volunteer this optional information, and so the census underestimates the total populations of each ethnicity actually present.[43]

Although tabulated, "religious responses" were reported as a single total and not differentiated, despite totaling 1,089,597 in 2000.[44]

Independent organizations provide improved estimates of the total populations of races and ethnicities in the U.S. using the raw data from the U.S. census and other surveys.

According to a 2002 Zogby International survey, the majority of Arab Americans were Christian; the survey showed that 24% of Arab Americans were Muslim, 63% were Christian and 13% belonged to another religion or no religion.[45] Christian Arab Americans include Maronites, Melkites, Chaldeans, Orthodox Christians, and Copts; Muslim Arab Americans primarily adhere to one of the two main Islamic denominations, Sunni and Shia.[45]

Notable people[edit]

Academia[edit]

Business[edit]

Literature[edit]

Politics[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]