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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Are the Characterisitcs of Exiles Different from Immigrants? The Case of Iranians in Los Angeles


The main objective of this paper is to use the Iranian case to test three hypotheses about the demographic, religious, and socioeconomic differences between immigrants and political refugees or exiles, which are commonly found in the literature. These hypotheses are tested by using data from the 1980 U.S. Census Public Use Microdata Sample for the 1975-80 and the pre-1975 Iranian immigrant cohorts. Our first hypothesis is that the 1975-80 immigrants include a higher proportion of religious minorities than the pre-1975 immigrants. Our second hypothesis is that the 1975-1980 cohort, composed of a large number of refugees, is much more balanced with respect to age and sex distribution than the pre-1975 cohort. The third hypothesis is that Iranians who arrived in 1975-80 had a higher socioeconomic achievement than those who came before that date. The analysis of data from the 1980 U.S. Census on immigration cohorts is preceded by a brief review of trends and types of Iranian immigration to the United States as documented by tabulations from the INS. While these tabulations pertain only to the United States, they also reflect immigration trends to Los Angeles, since this metropolitan area is the favored destination of Iranian immigrants to the United States.

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