Middle Eastern Americans

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Middle Eastern Americans
Regions with significant populations
Continental United States, smaller populations in Alaska and Hawaii
English · Arabic · Aramaic · Armenian · Azerbaijani · Georgian · Hebrew · Kurdish · Persian · Turkish · others
Christianity (Eastern Orthodoxy · Oriental Orthodoxy · Assyrian Church of the East ·
Catholicism · Protestantism·
Islam · Judaism · Baháʼí Faith · Druze ·
None (Atheism · Agnosticism·
Zoroastrianism · Yazidism ·
Mandaeism · Deism

Middle Eastern Americans are Americans of Middle Eastern background. According to the United States Census Bureau, the term "Middle Eastern American" applies to anyone of West Asian or North African origin.[citation needed] This includes people whose background is from the various Middle Eastern and West Asian ethnic groups, such as the Kurds and Assyrians, as well as immigrants from modern-day countries of the Arab world, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and sometimes Armenia.[1][2][3][4]

Although once considered Asian Americans, the modern definition of "Asian American" now excludes people with West Asian backgrounds.[5]


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.[6]: 4 

The number of Armenians who migrated to the US from 1820 to 1898 is estimated to be around 4,000[7] and according to the Bureau of Immigration, 54,057 Armenians entered the US between 1899 and 1917, with the vast majority coming from the Ottoman Empire.[8] 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.[9]

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.[6]: 11 


The population of Middle Eastern Americans totals at least 10 million.[when?][citation needed] In 2012 Pew Research estimated the population of Arab Americans to be 3.7 million people[10]) and in 2014 the U.S. Secretary of Commerce stated that there were over 1 million Turkish Americans in the U.S.[11][12]

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.[13][14]

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.[15] 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."[16]

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).[17] 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.[18]

Middle Eastern Americans in the 2000[19]2010 U.S. Census,[20] and the Mandell L. Berman Institute[citation needed]
Ancestry 2000 2000 (% of US population) 2010 2010 (% of US population) Notes
Arab 1,160,729 0.4125% 1,697,570 0.5498% The Arab American Institute claims that there are 3,700,000 Arab Americans.[21]
Armenian 385,488 0.1370% 474,559 0.1537% Modern Armenia is in the Southern Caucasus region of West Asia. Part of the Armenian American community have come from, or descend from, the Middle East. This includes Western Armenians from present day Turkey and Iranian Armenians from northern Iran. Other Armenians in America from the Middle East have immigrated from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt.
Assyrian/Chaldo-Assyrian 81,749 0.0290% 106,821 0.0346%
Azerbaijani 14,205 0.0050% % Modern Azerbaijan is in the Caucasus region at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Part of the Azerbaijani American community have come from, or descend from, the Middle East; including Iran and Turkey.
Georgian 6,298 0.0022% % Modern Georgia is a country located in the Southern Caucasus at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.
Iranian 338,266 0.1202% 463,552 0.1501% In the ethnic sense, Persians can be referred to as "Persian Americans" or "Iranian Americans"; however, the latter term can also be much broader in its definition and inclusive of Persians, Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Turkmen, and other communities which have left Iran for the United States.

Some estimates have suggested that the total number of Iranian Americans is between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000.[22][23][24][25][26]
Israeli 106,839 0.0380% 129,359 0.0419% The Israeli Americans refer to all communities which have come from the State of Israel, including Jews, Arabs etc.
Kurdish 9,423 0.0033% % Kurdish Americans mostly come from Iraq and Iran, with smaller communities from Syria and Turkey.
Syriac 606 0.0002% %
Turkish 117,575 0.0418% 195,283 0.0633% Most Turkish Americans either came from, or descend from, the former Ottoman Empire or the post-Ottoman states. The majority originate from Turkey, but there are also significant ethnic Turkish communities which have come to the United States from the island Cyprus, North Africa, and the Levant. In addition, many Balkan Turks from Southeastern Europe and Meskhetian Turks from Eastern Europe are living in the United States.

Estimates on the total number Turkish Americans is far higher than the official censuses show. In 2012 the US Commerce Secretary, John Bryson, said that there was now over 1,000,000 Turkish Americans.[12][11]
"Middle Eastern" 28,400 0.0101% %

Although tabulated, "religious responses" were reported as a single total and not differentiated, despite totaling 1,089,597 in 2000.[19]

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

Similarly, the Arab-American Institute estimated the population of Arab Americans at 3.7 million in 2012.[10]

According to a 2002 Zogby International survey, the majority of Arab Americans are Christian; the survey showed that 24% of Arab Americans were Muslim, 63% were Christian and 13% belonged to another religion or no religion.[27] 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.[27]

Notable people[edit]



The most famous ones include



See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]