Iranian-Americans reported among most highly
educated in U.S.
By Phyllis McIntosh
January 26, 2004
Source: Washington File
Iranian-Americans are far more numerous in the United
States than census data indicate and are among the most highly
educated people in the country, according to research by the Iranian
Studies Group, an independent academic organization, at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT).
The group estimates that the actual number of Iranian-Americans
may top 691,000 -- more than twice the figure of 338,000 cited
in the 2000 U.S. census. According to the latest census data available,
more than one in four Iranian-Americans holds a master's or doctoral
degree, the highest rate among 67 ethnic groups studied.
With their high level of educational attainment
and a median family income 20 percent higher than the national
contribute substantially to the U.S. economy.
Through surveys of
Fortune 500 companies and other major corporations, the researchers
identified more than 50 Iranian-Americans in senior leadership
positions at companies with more than $200 million in asset value,
including General Electric, AT&T, Verizon, Intel, Cisco, Motorola,
Oracle, Nortel Networks, Lucent Technologies, and eBay. Fortune magazine ranks Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of the board
of eBay, the wildly popular online auction company, as the second
richest American entrepreneur under age 40.
Iranian-Americans are also prominent in academia.
According to a preliminary list compiled by ISG, there are more
than 500 Iranian-American
professors teaching and doing research at top-ranked U.S. universities,
including MIT, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, the University
of California system (Berkeley, UCLA, etc.), Stanford, the University
of Southern California, Georgia Tech, University of Wisconsin,
University of Michigan, University of Illinois, University of Maryland,
California Institute of Technology, Boston University, George Washington
University, and hundreds of other universities and colleges throughout
the United States.
The Iranian Studies Group (ISG), founded in 2002
by a group of Iranian Ph.D. candidates enrolled at MIT, analyzes
and political issues involving Iran and Iranians. The group began
compiling statistics on the Iranian-American community at the request
of Iranian associations and community leaders in the United States
who do not have the time or capacity to conduct such research.
The ISG arrived at its population estimate of 691,000
Iranian-Americans by assembling a list of 100 family names from
the national university
examination database in Iran, then conducting a computer analysis
of U.S. white page telephone directories to count households with
those names. They then multiplied that total by 2.83, the average
number of individuals per Iranian-American household as reported
in the 2000 census.
Overall census counts of Iranian-Americans
may be low in part because many people are reluctant to identify
their country of origin due to troubled relations between the
United States and Iran over the past 25 years, says Ali Mostashari,
of the founders of the Iranian Studies Group.
Iranians have achieved a high level of success in
the United States because unlike many immigrants, most left their
homeland for social,
political, or religious reasons, rather than in search of economic
opportunity, Mostashari adds. The two large waves of immigrants
who came to the United States because of the 1979 revolution in
Iran consisted mainly of people with education and assets, he notes.
"These were people who could make it to the
U.S. and sustain themselves in the U.S. It was a pre-selection,
not your typical immigration
where people come mainly for financial reasons," he said.
In another recently issued report, the Iranian Studies
Group has undertaken the mission of convincing Iranian-Americans
more active participants in the American political process. According
to surveys in some major cities, fewer than 10 percent voted
in the last presidential election. The report cites the experiences
of other ethnic groups, such as Israeli-Americans, Arab-Americans,
and Cuban-Americans, to show how Iranians could use their collective
voice to influence U.S. foreign policy regarding Iran and address
the needs of the Iranian-American community.
In addition to its focus on Iranian-Americans, the
ISG issues reports about topical issues in Iran, such as earthquake
publishes the Iran Analysis Quarterly, which features scholarly
articles about social, political, and economic issues in Iran.
Through its Development Gateway Project, the group has established
Internet links to some 400 articles representing a wide spectrum
of views about Iranian development issues.
A lecture series
brings experts from Iran and the United States to MIT to discuss
range of topics, such as The Fate of Local Democracy under
the Islamic Republic, Nonviolent Struggle: Liberation Without
Violence, Temporary Marriage and Women's Rights, and Rethinking
More information about the Iranian Studies Group
is available on its website, web.mit.edu/isg.
Washington File is a product of the Bureau
of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.
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