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. American Jews, Kurdish Americans, Assyrian Americans, Coptic Americans etc.) and current immigrants from modern-day countries of the Arab League, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, 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.
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) populations alone. This comes to more than 3.1% of the 318 million people in the US as of 2014.
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.
According to the 2010 US Census, California had the largest Middle Eastern immigrant population, counting nearly 400,000 people. Of states with the most Middle Eastern immigrants, Virginia has the fastest growing population, followed by Texas, Michigan, and New York.
Although the US 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.
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.
The majority of Arab Americans are Christian. Most Maronites tend to be of Lebanese, Syrian, or Cypriot extraction; the majority of Christians of Cypriot and Palestinian background are often Eastern Orthodox.
Over the period from 2010 through 2014, Middle Easterners ranked third among the fastest-growing immigrant groups in America with an increase of 17 percent, a few points behind Sub-Saharan Africa (21 percent) and South Asia (25 percent). This continues a trend of very rapid growth over the past half-century. In 1970, fewer than 200,000 non-Jewish Middle Easterners lived in the United States; by 2000, the number had grown by 650 percent to nearly 1.5 million. This represents more than twice the percentage growth rate of the entire population of immigrants to the US over the same period. Over the 1990s alone, immigration from the Middle East increased 80 percent. In the early 2000s, citizenship rates among Middle Eastern immigrants was at 55 percent, which was 17 points higher than the average for immigrants overall. Assuming a similar growth rate in this population as for the Middle East immigrant population overall, the number of young children in Middle Eastern families were estimated likely to grow to roughly 950,000 over the 2000s.