In November 1986, the government reported that the preliminary
count in the fourth national census, which had been conducted
during October, showed a total population of 48,181,463. According
to the government, this total included about 2.6 million refugees
who had come from Afghanistan and Iraq since 1980. The population
of Iranian nationals, approximately 45.6 million, represented
an increase of about 12 million over the 33.7 million enumerated
in the 1976 census. This indicated that the Iranian population
had grown at an annual rate of 3.6 percent between 1976 and 1986.
A population increase in excess of 3.3 percent per year puts Iran's
population growth rate among the higher rates in the world.
The preliminary report on the 1986 census showed that Iran's
population had been growing at a faster rate since 1976 than during
earlier periods. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century,
estimates and scattered population surveys indicated that the
average population growth rate was less than 2 percent annually.
After World War II, however, the population growth rate began
to rise. Between the first national census in 1956, when Iran's
population numbered 19 million, and the second national census
in 1966, when the population count was 25.3 million, the annual
growth rate averaged 2.9 percent. The results of the 1976 national
census, however, indicated a slight decrease in the average annual
growth rate to 2.7 percent.
The sharp increase in the population growth rate from 2.7 percent
to nearly 3.6 percent per year between 1976 and 1986 appeared
to be related to the Revolution in 1979. Prior to the Revolution,
the government had promoted a family planning program; however,
following the Revolution, the new government ceased all official
involvement in family planning. Although there has been no religious
prohibition on birth control, government pronouncements and literature
have tended to extol the virtues of large families.
In mid-1987, data on vital statistics from the 1986 preliminary
census were incomplete, but some demographic changes were already
evident. The 1976 census data had indicated that 51.4 percent
of the population was male and 48.6 was female. The median age
of the population was 16.5 years, and less than 3.5 percent of
the population was over 65. The relatively large population increase
between 1976 and 1986 had the effect of increasing the already
extreme youthfulness of the population. In 1986 the government
announced that 50 percent of the population was under 15 years
of age, and about 45 percent was in the 15- to 59-year age group,
while only 5 percent was over the age of 60.
According to the preliminary results of the 1986 census, the
average population density for the country was twenty-nine persons
per square kilometer. In some regions, especially along the Caspian
coast and in East Azarbaijan, the average density was significantly
higher, while in the more arid regions of the Central Plateau
and Baluchestan va Sistan, average population density was ten
or fewer persons per square kilometer.
Data as of December 1987