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Middle Eastern American facts for kids

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Middle Eastern American
Regions with significant populations
Continental United States, smaller populations in Alaska and Hawaii
English • Arabic • Aramaic • Azerbaijani • Armenian • Georgian • Greek • Hebrew • Persian • Turkish, others
Christianity: (Eastern Orthodoxy · Catholicism)
Islam · Judaism · Druze · Zoroastrianism · Atheism · Yezidism · Agnosticism · Deism

Middle-Eastern Americans are Americans with ancestry or citizenship from the Middle East.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the term "Middle-Eastern American" applies to anyone of Western Asian and North African (Middle-Eastern) extraction. This definition includes both indigenous Middle-Eastern groups in diaspora (e.g. the Jewish diaspora, Kurdish Americans, Assyrian Americans, etc.) and current immigrants from modern-day countries of the Arab League, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Iran, Israel and Turkey. Middle Eastern communities have been settling in America since at least the Dutch colonial period of New Amsterdam, when Sephardic Jews fleeing persecution in Brazil found refuge there in 1654.


Max Amini Persian American Stand Up Comedian 2015
Max Amini, Persian American stand-up comedian

The population of Middle Eastern Americans totals at least 10 million, combining the estimates for the Arab-American (3.7 million) and the Jewish-American (6.5 million).

The population of Middle-Eastern Americans includes both Arabs and non-Arabs. In their definitions of Middle Eastern Americans, U.S. Census Bureau and the National Health Interview Survey include peoples (diasporic or otherwise) from present-day Armenia, Cyprus, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Central Asia.

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. Middle Eastern and North African immigrants have primarily settled in California (20%), Michigan (11%), and New York (10 percent). U.S. Census Bureau data 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."

By ethnicity

Although the U.S. 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). 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.

Middle Eastern Americans in the 2000 - 2010 U.S. Census, the Mandell L. Berman Institute, and the North American Jewish Data Bank
Ancestry 2000 2000 (% of US population) 2010 2010 (% of US population)
Arab League Arab 1,160,729 0.4125% 1,697,570 0.5498%
Armenia Armenian 385,488 0.1370% 474,559 0.1537%
Assyrian/Chaldo-Assyrian 81,749 0.0290% 106,821 0.0346%
Azerbaijan Azerbaijani 14,205 0.0050% %
Republic of Cyprus Cypriot 7,643 0.0027% %
Georgia (country) Georgian 6,298 0.0022% %
Iran Iranian 338,266 0.1202% 463,552 0.1501%
Israel Israeli 106,839 0.0380% 129,359 0.0419%
Israel Jewish 6,155,000 2.1810% 6,543,820 2.1157%
Iraqi Kurdistan Kurdish 9,423 0.0033% %
Syriac 606 0.0002% %
Tajikistan Tajik 905 0.0003% %
Turkey Turkish 117,575 0.0418% 195,283 0.0633%
"Middle Eastern" 28,400 0.0101% %
"North Caucasian" 596 0.0002% %
"North Caucasian Turkic" 1,347 0.0005% 290,893 0.0942%
TOTAL 8,568,772 3.036418% 9,981,332 3.227071%
Armenian dancers in downtown Manhattan, 1976
Armenian American dancers in New York City in July 1976 during the United States Bicentennial

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

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.

For example, although any respondents who self-identified as Jewish were previously included under the religious responses in the census, as Jews are an ethnoreligious group with culture and ethnicity intertwined, estimates from the Mandell L. Berman Institute and the North American Jewish Data Bank put the total population of Jews between 5.34 and 6.16 million in 2000 and around 6.54 million in 2010. Similarly, the Arab-American Institute estimated the population of Arab Americans at 3.7 million in 2012.

According 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. 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.

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