The Historical Background of Persian Americans


Iranian, or Persian-Americans, have been present in North America since before the United States of America existed. Today, Persian-American culture is present throughout our country and Persian Americans are some of the highest educated Americans in the country. Based on a report from the National Organization for Civil Registration in Iran, the United States has the highest number of Iranian immigrants throughout the world. Here is a brief history of the relationship between Persian-Americans and the United States of America.

Immigration of Iranians to America

The earliest recorded account of Persians visiting North America was Martin the Armenian, who was a tobacco grower that settled in Jamestown, Virginia in 1618. The first significant wave of Iranian migration to the United States happened between 1940 and 1977. In the 1970s, the single largest category of Iranian visitors were students. After the Iranian Revolution as well as the Iranian War with Iraq, the face of immigration to the United States from Iran and thus, Iranian American society was altered considerably. Whereas prior visitors had mostly been students, the second wave of Iranians tended to be those who are displaced by the Revolution or the subsequent government. Between exiles and students, the foundation was created for a very highly educated, skilled and hard-working community that would thrive in the United States.

Third Wave

Beginning around 1995, a third wave of Iranian immigration to the United States occurred. While tensions between the United States and the government of Iran have prompted some Iranian immigrants to keep their status to themselves, estimates put the number of Iranians now living in the United States at between 1 and 1.5 million.


There are typically for standards used to gauge assimilation: Language proficiency, intermarriage, spatial concentration and socioeconomic status. In almost every category, Persian-Americans have assimilated flawlessly. Many own small businesses and in fact Persian-Americans are among the highest of all immigrants in terms of rate of business ownership. Persian-Americans have also excelled in areas of income, level of education and economic outlook. Specifically, Iranian-American culture has produced individuals who have been leaders in business, medicine, science and law. Politically, they have largely participated in American politics and in many cases held office, although, their participation rate is fairly low.

The contribution of Persian-American culture to the American culture, society, business and economy has been tremendously positive. Over the years, they have proven to be some of the most influential immigrants the country has ever seen.

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