Demographics of Iran

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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][2] In recent years, however, Iran's birth rate has dropped significantly.[dubious ] Studies project that Iran's rate of population growth will continue to slow until it stabilizes above 100 million by 2050.[3][4] More than half of Iran's population is under 35 years old (2012).[5]

In 2009, the number of households stood at 15.3 million (4.8 person/household).[6] According to the Central Bank of Iran in 2012, in 22.5 per cent of Iranian families, all family members were unemployed.[7] Families earn some 11.8 million rials (some $960) ) per month on the average (2012).[8]

According to the OECD/World Bank statistics population growth in Iran from 1990 to 2008 was 17.6 million and 32%.[9] The literacy rate was 80% in 2007,[10][11][12] 85% in 2008[13] and 91% in 2013.[14]


According to the 2011 population census the population of Iran was 75 million ,[1] a fourfold increase since 1956. Between 1976 and 1986 an average annual population growth of almost 4% was reached, but due to decreasing fertility levels the growth decreased to 1.3% between 2006 and 2011.

Population census results[1][15]
Census datePopulationAverage annual
growth (%)
urban (%)
Household size

Vital statistics[edit]

UN estimates[16][edit]

PeriodLive births per yearDeaths per yearNatural change per yearcrude birth rate1crude death rate1natural change1total fertility rate2infant mortality rate3
1950-1955933 000529 000404 00050.628.721.96.93262.1
1955-19601 018 000505 000514 00049.224.424.86.93212.5
1960-19651 093 000479 000614 00046.520.326.26.93172.6
1965-19701 164 000455 000709 00043.316.926.46.70140.7
1970-19751 253 000443 000811 00040.814.426.46.24116.4
1975-19801 503 000430 0001 073 00042.
1980-19851 889 000720 0001 170 00044.416.927.56.5469.8
1985-19901 955 000550 0001 406 00038.610.827.85.6255.4
1990-19951 633 000359 0001 274 00028.56.322.23.9547.1
1995-20001 318 000338 000980 00021.15.415.72.6238.9
2000-20051 213 000360 000853 00018.05.312.71.9632.5
2005-20101 274 000389 000885 00017.75.412.31.7727.2
1per 1000; 2 TFR = number of children per woman; 3per 1000 births

Registered births and deaths[15][17][edit]

Average population (x 1000)Live birthsDeathsNatural changeCrude birth rate (per 1000)Crude death rate (per 1000)Natural change (per 1000)Total Fertility Rate
199962 7381 177 557374 838802 71918.86.012.8
200063 6581 095 165382 674712 49117.26.011.2
200164 5921 110 836421 525689 31117.26.510.7
200265 5401 122 104337 237784 86717.15.112.0
200366 4801 171 573368 518803 05517.65.512.1
200467 4771 154 368355 213799 15517.15.311.8
200568 4671 239 408363 723875 68518.15.312.8
200670 4961 253 912408 566845 34617.85.812.01.60[18]
200771 5321 286 716412 736873 98018.05.812.2
200872 5841 300 166417 798882 36817.95.812.2
200973 6511 348 546393 514955 03218.35.313.0
201074 7331 363 542441 042922 50018.35.912.4
201175 1491 382 229422 133960 09618.35.612.71.30[18]

Structure of the population[edit]

Structure of the population 2006 and 2011:

Age groupNumber(2006)Percentage(2006)Number(2011)Percentage(2011)
Number of children 0-14Number of people 15-49ProportionNumber of women 15-49Proportion
17.681.629 (2006)43.049.709 (2006)0,4107 (2006)~21.524.855 (2006)0,8215 (2006)
17.561.778 (2011)45.174.366 (2011)0,3888 (2011)~22.587.183 (2011)0,7775 (2011)

Table 9 – Population and Average Annual Growth by Provinces: 2006 and 2011

Province20062011Average annual growth
Eastern Azerbaijan3,603,4563,724,6200.66
Western Azerbaijan2,873,4593,080,5761.40
Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari857,910895,2630.86
South Khorassan636,420662,5340.81
Razavi Khorassan5,593,0795,994,4021.40
North Khorassan811,572867,7271.35
Sistan and Baloochestan2,405,7422,534,3271.05
Kohgilooyeh and Booyerahmad634,299658,6290.76

1 The population of the provinces of Alborz and Tehran for 2006 and their average annual growth have been calculated based on the data of 2011.

Unofficial Translation 17

Table 10 – Population Percentages by Province: 2006 and 2011 (Percentage)

Eastern Azerbaijan5.114.96
Western Azerbaijan4.084.10
Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari1.221.19
South Khorassan0.900.88
Razavi Khorassan7.947.98
North Khorassan1.151.15
Sistan and Baloochestan3.413.37
Kohgilooyeh and Booyerahmad0.900.88

1 The population of the provinces of Alborz and Tehran for 2006 and their average annual growth have been

Languages and ethnic groups[edit]

Iran's ethnoreligious distribution

The largest linguistic group comprises speakers of Iranian languages, like modern Persian, Kurdish, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Luri, and Balochi. Speakers of Turkic languages, such as the Azeri, Turkmen, and the Qashqai peoples, comprise a substantial minority. The remainder are primarily speakers of Semitic languages such as Arabic and Assyrian. There are small groups using other Indo-European languages such as Pashto and Armenian; the isolate Dravidian language Brahui in the south-east; and Georgian (a member of the Kartvelian language family), spoken only by those Iranian Georgians that live in Fereydan and Fereydunshahr.

The CIA World Factbook (which is based on 2013 statistics) gives the following numbers for the languages spoken in Iran today: Persian, Luri, Gilaki and Mazandarani 66%; Azeri and other Turkic languages 18%; Kurdish 10%; Arabic 2%; Baloch 2%; others 1%.[19]

Other sources, such as the Library of Congress, and the Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden)[20] give Iran's ethnic groups as following: Persians 65%, Azeris 16%, Kurds 7%, Lurs 6%, Arabs 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmens 1%, Turkic tribal groups (e.g. Qashqai) 1%, and non-Persian, non-Turkic groups (e.g. Pashtuns, Armenians, Assyrians, and Georgians) less than 1%.[21] For sources prior to 2000, see Languages and ethnicities in Iran.

Urban Population[edit]

Population density in Iran

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.[22] The following is a list of the six most populous cities in the country.

RankCity (Province)2007
1.Tehran (Tehran Province)12,765,238 (conurbation and commuter towns included)[23][dubious ]
(8,088,287 in the city itself)[23]
2.Mashad (Razavi Khorasan)2,868,350 (this does include suburban population)
(2,410,800 in the city itself)[23]
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)[23]
4.Tabriz (East Azarbaijan)1,597,319 (city proper and main suburbs)
(1,378,935 in the city itself)[23]
5.Karaj (Alborz Province)1,377,450[23]
6.Shiraz (Fars Province)1,204,882[23]

Religious affiliations[edit]

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.
Population of Iran according to religion 1956-2011[1][15]
Religioncensus 1956census 1966census 1976census 2006census 2011
Number %Number %Number %Number %Number %

More than 99% of the Iranians are Muslims; 90% belong to the Shi'a branch of Islam, the official state religion, and about 9% belong to the Sunni branch, which predominates in neighboring Muslim countries.[11] Less than 1% non-Muslim minorities include Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews, Bahá'ís, Mandeans, and Yarsan. The Bahá'í Faith, Iran's openly persecuted religious minority with a population around 300 000, is not officially recognized(and therefore not included in the census results), 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.[24][25] Today, there are an estimated 8,000 Assyrian Christians in Iran, who belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church.

Iranian citizens abroad[edit]

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.[26]

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.[22][27][28] According to the 2000 Census and other independent surveys, there are an estimated 1 million Iranian-Americans living in the U.S., in particular, the Los Angeles area is estimated to be host to approximately 72,000 Iranians, earning the Westwood area of LA the nickname Tehrangeles.[29] Other metropolises that have large Iranian populations include Dubai with 300,000 Iranians, Vancouver, London, Toronto, San Francisco Bay Area, Washington D.C., Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Stockholm, Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt. Their combined net worth is estimated to be $1.3 trillion.[30]

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.

Refugee population[edit]

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.[31][32] 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.[32]

CIA World Factbook demographic statistics[edit]

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.[11]

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.)
0-14 years: 24.1% (male 9,608,342/female 9,128,427)
15-64 years: 70.9% (male 28,083,193/female 27,170,445)
65 years and over: 5% (male 1,844,967/female 2,055,846) (2011 est.)

Median age

total: 26.4 years
male: 26.2 years
female: 26.7 years (2008 est.)
total: 26.8 years
male: 26.6 years
female: 27.1 years (2011 est.)


urban population: 71% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 1.9% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2012 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 70.86 years
male: 69.65 years
female: 72.72 years (2008 est.)
total population: 70.35 years
male: 68.84 years
female: 71.93 years (2012 est.)

Youth literacy

definition: age 15-24 can read and write
total population: above 90%[33]
male youth: 98%
female youth: 98.0% (2008 est.)


Y-chromosome DNA[edit]

Y-Chromosome DNA Y-DNA represents the male lineage, the Iranian Y-chromosome pool is as follows where haplogroups J (33%), R1 (25%), G (14%), E1b1b (5%), L (4%), Q (4%),comprise more than 85% of the total chromosomes.[34]


Mitochondrial DNA[edit]

Mitochondrial DNA mtDNA represents the female lineage The Iranian mitochondrial DNA shows more Western Eurasian lineages than the Y-DNA lineages.[36]

People of Iranian Ancestry[edit]

It is estimated that some 200 million people around the world have Iranian ancestry.[37]


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.[38] Some, such as Ardeshir Irani, have also become very famous in cinema.

Ajam (Bahrain)[edit]

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 Shiite sect of Islam are Ajam, and they are different from the Huwala, who are Sunnis and some of them have Arab origin.

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.

Kuwaiti Ajam[edit]

The "Ayyam" are an ethnic community in Kuwait of ethnic Iranian origin. Kuwaitis of Iranian origin mostly come from the Iranian provinces of Fars, Khuzestan, Bushehr, Lorestan and Baluchistan.[39][40] Today, Kuwait has the highest percentage of citizens of Iranian origin in the Persian Gulf.[41]


Huwala are the descendants of Persians and Persian Arabs who belong to the Sunni sect of Islam.[39] Huwala migrated from Ahwaz in Iran to the Persian Gulf in the seventeenth and eighteenth century.[39][42]


The House of Bunnag was a powerful Siamese noble family of Persian descent of the early Rattanakosin Kingdom of Siam.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d [1]
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ U.S. Census Bureau International Data Base - Iran (retrieved 2011-07-22).
  4. ^ Iran News, "Iran's population growth rate falls to 1.5 percent: UNFP". Retrieved 2006-10-18. 
  5. ^ "International News | World News - ABC News". 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  6. ^ "Iran". Iran economy: Social indicators & living standards. Economist Intelligence Unit. June 23, 2009. 
  7. ^ Bozorgmehr, Najmeh (2012-04-25). "Subsidy dispute adds to Iran’s woes". Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  8. ^ "Central bank: Income equality improved in Iran". Tehran Times. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  9. ^ 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)
  10. ^ Table H
  11. ^ a b c "CIA - The World Factbook". Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  12. ^ "Iran: Country Brief". Development Economics, Development Data Group (DECDG). World Bank. June 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ a b c UN Demographic Yearbooks
  16. ^ World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision
  17. ^ Institute of Statistics Iran
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^ "The World Factbook - Iran". Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  20. ^ See Iran in Encyclopedia of Islam, Leiden. C.E. Bosworth (editor)
  21. ^ Library of Congress, Library of Congress – Federal Research Division. "Ethnic Groups and Languages of Iran". Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  22. ^ a b "Migration Information Source - Iran: A Vast Diaspora Abroad and Millions of Refugees at Home". Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g Official Website of "Statistical Center of Iran" (in Persian)
  24. ^ International Federation for Human Rights (2003-08-01). "Discrimination against religious minorities in Iran". Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ Iran Daily - Domestic Economy - 10/22/07
  27. ^ "No Operation". Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  28. ^ Iran: Coping With The World's Highest Rate Of Brain Drain - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY
  29. ^ "Iranian-Americans cast ballots on Iran's future -". CNN. 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  30. ^ Iran Daily - Domestic Economy - 02/14/07
  31. ^ United Nations, UNHCR. "Tripartite meeting on returns to Afghanistan". Retrieved 2006-04-14. 
  32. ^ a b "Migration Information Source - Iran: A Vast Diaspora Abroad and Millions of Refugees at Home". Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  33. ^ "Iran - Literacy rate". Index Mundi. Retrieved 6 September 2013. 
  34. ^ Regueiro et al. 2006, Nasidze et al. 2008
  35. ^ Bekada A, Fregel R, Cabrera VM, Larruga JM, Pestano J, et al. (2013) Introducing the Algerian Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Profiles into the North African Landscape. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56775. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056775
  36. ^ Kivisild et al. 2004, Nasidze et al. 2008
  37. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). "Report for Iranian languages". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (Fifteenth ed.) (Dallas: SIL International). 
  38. ^
  39. ^ a b c "Two ethnicities, three generations: Phonological variation and change in Kuwait". Newcastle University. 2010. p. 11. 
  40. ^ "An Overview of the Kuwait’s Recent Developments Why Kuwait Needs to Keep Shiites in Power?". 
  41. ^
  42. ^ Farmanfarmaian, Roxane (2008). War and Peace in Qajar Persia. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 978-0415421195. 

External links[edit]