State’s Rank by Arab American Population: 16
Census Estimated Arab American Population: 58,075*
The population who identified as Arabic-speaking in the U.S. Census grew more than 42% between 2000 and 2017. The number of Tennessean who claim an Arab ancestry more than doubled since the Census first measured ethnic origins in 1980, and is among the fastest growing Arab populations in the country. The Census Bureau estimates the statewide population, adjusting for under-reporting, is close to 58,075.*
The largest number of new Arab immigrants to Tennessee came from Egypt, Iraq, and Somalia.
How Do Arab Americans Identify Themselves?
Primary Ethnic Identification is derived from responses to the ancestry question on the long (sample) form of the 2010 U.S. Census. Census data on “Arabs” include the responses: Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Palestinian, Moroccan, Arab or Arabic. The following countries are collapsed as “Other Arab”: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
We also include Arabic-speaking persons who identify as Assyrian, Chaldean, Somali, or Sudanese, identities which are not aggregated as Arab in Census reports. In Tennessee, according to the 2010 Census most Arab Americans in the state have Egyptian or Iraqi roots. Since 1990, significant increases appear in the number of Tennessean who are of Iraqi and Egyptian descent. Roughly 17% of ancestry respondents chose the generic identity of “Arab/Arabic.”
Where Do Tennessean Arab Americans Live?
Arab Americans in Tennessee reside in 69 of the 95 counties in the state.
*Research by AAI suggests the number above is likely significantly lower than the actual number of Arab Americans in the state. The American Community Survey identifies only a portion of the Arab population through a question on “ancestry.” Reasons for the undercount include the placement and limitations of the ancestry question (as distinct from race and ethnicity); the effect of the sample methodology on small, unevenly distributed ethnic groups; high levels of out-marriage among the third and fourth generations; and distrust/misunderstanding of government surveys among recent immigrants.
**Immigration data pulled from the Department of Homeland Security does not include data for Palestinian immigration. AAI has reached out to attempt to gather the data and get a response from DHS but they have declined to do so.
Sources: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates (2017), American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (2013-2017), 2000 US Census– U.S. Census Bureau; Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2009-2016—Office of Immigration Statistics, Department of Homeland Security
©2019 Arab American Institute Foundation.