Highlights from Iran’s 2016 census
The summary results of Iran’s latest census, taken in the fall of 2016 (1395), shows that the country has finally reached the 80 million size that people have been talking about for some time (1.8 million are listed as foreign, mostly from Afghanistan). The summary results were out in record time, published in March 2017, in large part the results of the fact that nearly half of the families filled the census form online, and the information from the rest was collected digitally. It took two years to design and 40,000 people to complete (one-third fewer than in previous censuses). The quick release of the results also attests to the increasing efficiency of the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) in processing census and survey data. However, the World Bank scores Iran’s statistical capacity below that of India and Morocco, which surprised me, but on the good side the score is much higher in 2016 than it was in 2004.
Here are some highlights from the published summary.
Urbanization has increased, to 74% from 71% in 2011, though perhaps mostly because more locations passed the 5000 size that allows it to apply for the town status, with its usual perks (like a higher salary for those who run it). The census counts 1245 towns and cities, three times as many as at the time of the Revolution. Average size of the family in urban and rural areas are nearly identical now (3.3 and 3.4, respectively, down from 4.0 and 5.5 in 1986), indicating that the rural-urban divide in lifestyle has all but disappeared. Interestingly, the most frequent type of family in Iran is the 3-person family.
Population growth, which has some Iranian leaders very concerned for being too slow, and has caused the reversal of policy on family planning, has fallen further — to 1.24% per year. Since the last census, in 2011, the country has added close to a million persons per year, many fewer than the 1.6 million between 1976 and 1986. Rural areas have been shrinking in population since the mid 1990s. Surprisingly, South Khorasan, which has been suffering from serious drought in the last decade, had the higher rate of population growth (3.02% per year). I am pretty sure that this is an artifact of the migration of the city of Tabas, 70,000 in size, from the Yazd province to South Khorasan.
There is some consolation for those who see Iran’s “population problem” as one of a shrinking nation: The number of children 0-4 years old is about 40% larger in 2016 than in 2011. This may or may not represent a turnaround in fertility behavior of Iranians. It could be due to the increase in the number of mothers, which could in turn be because there are more women now (the 1980s baby boom cohorts), or because more of them are getting married and having children. When SCI releases the 2% sample of this census, we will know.
Iran’s population has gotten much older in the last ten years, with the median age having risen from 25 in 2006 to 30 in 2016, and more literate (94.7% of the population 10-49 years old is literate).
Finally, there are a few interesting things to note for housing. Nearly 40% of all dwellings are apartments (80% in Tehran) and 60% are owner-occupied. One out of every 10 units is vacant, (2.6 million nationwide, with half a million in the Tehran province alone). There were nearly one million more unoccupied homes in 2016 than in 2011, a clear sign of the real estate boom and bust of the past few years. The bust continues to paralyze Iran’s banking system, denying President Rouhani the quick economic recovery he had promised 4 years ago that could have sealed his re-election on May 19.