Demographics of Iran

Iran’s population increased dramatically during the later half of the 20th century, reaching about 80 million by 2016. In recent years, however, Iran’s birth rate has dropped significantly. Studies project that Iran’s rate of population growth will continue to slow until it stabilizes above 100 million by 2050. More than half of Iran’s population is under 35 years old (2012). The literacy rate was 80% in 2007, and 85% in 2008. According to the 2016 population census the population of Iran was 79.9 million, 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 1.2% between 2011 and 2016.


The largest linguistic group comprises speakers of Iranian languages, like modern Persian, Kurdish, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Luri, Talysh, and Balochi. Speakers of Turkic languages, most notably Azerbaijanis, which is by far the second-most spoken language in the country, but also the 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 Armenian, Russian, Pashto; Georgian (a member of the Kartvelian language family), spoken in a large pocket only by those Iranian Georgians that live in Fereydan, Fereydunshahr. Most of those Georgians who live in the north Iranian provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran, Isfahan, Tehran Province and the rest of Iran no longer speak the language but keep a Georgian conscience. The Circassians in Iran, a very large minority in the past and speakers of the Circassian language, have been strongly assimilated and absorbed within the population in the past few centuries. However, significant pockets do exist spread over the country, and they are the second-largest Caucasus-derived group in the nation after the Georgians.

Largest cities of Iran

Iran has one of the highest urban population growth rates in the world. From 1950 to 2002, the urban proportion of the population increased from 27% to 60%. Tehran, with a population of 8.7 million (2016 census), is the largest city in Iran and is the nation’s capital. Tehran is home to around 11% of Iran’s population. It is the hub of the country’s communication and transport networks.

Mashhad, with a population of 3 million, is the second-largest Iranian city and the centre of the province of Razavi Khorasan. Mashhad is one of the holiest Shi’a cities in the world as it is the site of the Imam Reza shrine. It is the centre of tourism in Iran and between 15 and 20 million pilgrims go to Imam Reza’s shrine every year.

The third most populous city of Iran is Isfahan with a population 2 million (as of 2016). This city is one of the most industrial cities of Iran with large industries and hosts several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city has a wide variety of historic monuments and is known for its paintings, history and architecture.


About 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.Less than 1% non-Muslim minorities include Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews, Bahá’ís, Mandeans, and Yarsan. By far the largest group of Christians in Iran are Armenians under the Armenian Apostolic Church which has between 110,000, 250,000, and 300,000, adherents. There are hundreds of Christian churches in Iran Unofficial estimates for the Assyrian Christian population range between 20,000, and 70,000. The number of Iranian Mandaeans is a matter of dispute. In 2009, there were an estimated 5,000 and 10,000 Mandaeans in Iran, according to the Associated Press. The latter three minority religions are officially recognized and protected, and have reserved seats in the Iran parliament. Zoroastrianism was once the majority religion, though today Zoroastrians number only in the tens of thousands. Iran is home to the second largest Jewish community in the Muslim World and the Middle East.

Yusefabad Synagogue in Tehran

Friday prayer

Christians celebrate New Year in Vank Cathedral, Isfahan

Mandaean Baptism in the Karoon River

Sadeh Festival- Zoroastrian Iranians

demographic statistics

Age structure:

0-14 years: 23.69% (male 9,937,715/female 9,449,716)

15-24 years: 17.58% (male 7,386,826/female 6,998,188)

25-54 years: 46.87% (male 19,534,794/female 18,817,480)

55-64 years: 6.58% (male 2,650,049/female 2,731,997)

65 years and over: 5.28% (male 1,990,961/female 2,326,544) (2015 est.)

Median age:

total: 28.8 years

male: 28.6 years

female: 29.1 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.2% (2015 est.)

Birth rate:

17.99 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate:

5.94 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)


urban population: 73.4% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 2.07% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female

total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 71.15 years

male: 69.56 years

female: 72.82 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.83 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Youth literacy:

total population: above 90%[49]

male youth: 98%

female youth: 98.0% (2008 est.)


Demographics of Iran

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