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Indian Americans are doing well, but not that well!

March 13, 2008

The Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) became the victim of an urban legend about Indian Americans. A false story based on a spam email (which made exxagerated claims about the number of successful Indian Americans) was taken seriously by a member of Parliament (Minister of State for HRD – Purandeshwari) and the statistics were quoted by her as authentic.

timesofindia.jpgThis story was picked by the Times group. It was called the “Global Indian Takeover” and “India’s global success story.” In the Times of India it appeared on the front page. Luckily, Chidanand Rajghatta, the Washington correspondent of the same group exposed the hoax. The newspaper report has cleverly blamed the Rajya Sabha member and the email itself for the misreporting.

I thought I would try to get some hard data. Indian Americans may not comprise 36 percent of all NASA scientists or 38 percent of all doctors in the United States (as the fake email claims) but they are a successful lot alright. Here is a brief overview of the Asian American population as a whole, based on data from The site has collected the data from the 2000 U.S. census:

  • Asian Americans – 4.3% of the total U.S. population (12 million people, either Asian or part Asian). This is an increase of 63 percent from the 1990 census, making Asian Americans the fastest growing of all the major racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.
  • Projections say that Whites will not be in a majority by 2050, and nor will any other racial/ethnic group.

Here are two tables which tell us about the socio-economic condition of Indian Americans, which I got from the same site (if you can’t see the chart clearly click on it and you will see a slightly larger version):



Education-wise Indian Americans beat all other immigrant communities. Almost 65 percent of Indian Americans have college degrees, a higher percentage than other highly educated ethnic groups like the Japanese, the Chinese and the Filipinos. And although there is much hype about IIT graduates, successful Indian Americans are doctors, journalists, motel owners as well as techies and their education comes from a “broad range of colleges in India and the U.S.”

The median family income is also the highest, again higher than the other three successful immigrant groups – the Japanese, Chinese and the Filipinos.
As to how many Indians work at NASA, they have never been counted. And no more than 10 percent of American physicians are of Indian origin, but even this is an estimate as no official figures have been released. The American Medical Association has only said (2006) that 12 percent of all physicians in the US are of Asian origin.

What’s special about Indians?
But yeah, Indian Americans are very successful. We would love to believe that we are genetically superior won’t we, but from what I have read the reasons are more to do with who migrates. There are different types of immigrants. Some go as political refugees, some go out to escape desperate poverty in their own country, and some go out of their own choice for better opportunities. The latter group, the voluntary immigrants so to say, are usually more educated than the other groups to begin with. And many Indians who go to America fall in the last group.

Vivek Wadhwa writing for Business Week has given his own take on why Indian Americans are successful. He feels that Indians grow up in a hard home environment – the corruption and the red tape for instance – and this gives them the ability to deal with obstacles. Indians are also used to a multi-cultural atmosphere at home, have strong family support and are fiscally conservative. They are good at networking and have a positive attitude towards America and try hard to integrate. All these are factors in their success. Take all factors in combination…an educated ambitious migrant who is adaptable, hardworking, careful with money, networks easily, loves America and has a loving supportive family…a potent combination.

I want to add that migrants are more motivated than those they leave behind. They might have certain characteristics (risk taking ability? Drive?) that their counterparts at home may not have. This should apply to all first generation migrants, whatever their origin, if they have left their country voluntarily. It would interesting to see how the second/third generation migrants fare in the US.

Some other interesting data about US immigrants:

  • The Vietnamese were the fastest growing from 1980 to 1990.
  • Bangladeshis became the fastest growing after 1990, alongwith Pakistanis and Indians. Today Indians are the fastest growing group.
  • The Chinese are the largest Asian American ethnic group, comprising 22.6 percent of the total Asian American population.
  • The population of Japanese Americans is declining as few Japanese immigrate to the U.S. nowadays.
  • Many Japanese American families migrated 4-5 generations ago and are now one of the most assimilated of Asian American groups.
  • 66 percent of all Asian Americans live in just five states (California, New York, Hawai, Texas, and Illinois).
  • 54.7 percent of all Asian Americans live in just the six metropolitan areas (Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Honolulu, Washington DC-Baltimore).

Related Reading: The advantages and disadvantages of dual citizenship
Does India share common values with the west?
Asian countries like the United States even if they don’t like each other

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50 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2008 10:52 pm

    Not only Indian Americans, all Indians when they go to other countries they become very disciplined, law abiding and hard working people. Only in India they have problem to prove themselves.

  2. March 13, 2008 11:06 pm

    that’s good to know 😀

  3. Ravi permalink
    March 13, 2008 11:42 pm

    Indians have an unique advantage over other immigrants to do well in US i.e. our undergraduate degree. On the average to do under graduation in US one need to spend more than $100,000 through tuition fee whereas in india I m not surprised to put the value to be $1200 for four year tuition and $5000 approx for living expenses. So its relatively easier to get an undergraduate degree in india if you are really into studies. I m not comparing the tuition fee charged by private schools in india who in fact can give admission irrespective of student’s rank in entrance examination.

    Basic degree in undergraduate is good enough to get a job and work under H1B visa which is not possible for other immigrants. Our asset is our ability to speak english fluently over other immigrants like Chinese who can give a tough competition if they could speak english as we do.

  4. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 14, 2008 6:06 am


    I think the most important part of your article is the section “What’s special about Indians”, especially your observations on “Who migrates”. This applies (with minor variation in detail) to both international and intranational migration. The latter, in fact, is more complex.

    The other significant thing, about the source article from , is to be found in the comments that follow it, which draw attention to the mutually incompatible time frames of some of the data.

    What I cannot understand after reading all this, and similar other findings, is the relatively low levels of social and cultural interaction or integration with the locals of such a high-achievers’ group. Excepting those in academia, I find that many Indians settled abroad — even those of second-generation vintage — have little to do with the locals except at the workplace and in routine commercial transactions. If they are so successful and still holding themselves aloof, how long before they become “unwelcome intruders”.

    • Siby mathews permalink
      February 25, 2012 4:49 pm

      The Indian American immigrants may not always be holding themselves aloof. From what is seen, heard and experienced, it can be surmised quite easily that most of them actually would love to have a lot to do with natives – especially with those of the white community !

      What might be holding them back then could be their sense of foreboding that the whites may in general not welcome or appreciate closer interaction with the Indian immigrants ! And this could only have come about from their adverse (albeit subtle) experiences.

  5. March 14, 2008 8:50 am

    Old Sailor, that is because of the laws and governance there. Here they don’t obey the laws because nothing happens if they do.

    Ravi, thanks. I think we should thank our government because that has enabled us to take advantage of subsidized education. Even the post grad courses like IIM’s get govt. help and as for IIT’s they too. Govt. spends a lot on these students and they do not even have to sign a binding contract.

    Vivek, I think Indians do tend to integrate as compared to other communities. I have a huge number of relatives there, some of them have gone in the sixties and I think I do understand what’s going on. From what they tell me, they try very hard to integrate at least superficially as compared to other communities. Often however the white population does not accept them into their intimate circle but this may not be racism as such. In India we get into close friendships much faster, the Whites come from another culture and it takes time for them. But once they do come close to Indians, they are extremely good friends. Both my aunt and uncle who migrated in the sixties have white american friends and their children are americanized. My cousins and friends who have gone there from India later have picked up the American accent, American habits, American clothes etc. Sure, some people do not do this, but a villager who migrates is different from an educated person who does. So there will always be people who stick to their own way of life but these people are at a disadvantage in American society. Take Bobby Jindal, he would never have succeeded if he had not converted and denied his Indianness. I am sure all his friends are mostly americans too.
    So what I am saying is that Indians do make the effort. However they are not always let into the inner circle of the local population, and therefore they satisfy their innate need for socialising amongst their own kin. But it’s not as if they shun the outsiders or hate America.
    In fact my best friend in school (bhori muslim) whom migrated (years ago) that she really tried to integrate and was mostly was succeeding, although the 9/11 was a setback. She is involved in community activities, voluntary work at school plus she is a professor of psychology. Another good friend of mine (whom I touched base with a few months ago in India) is a bank employee and her husband is a dentist. They are sardars and they have allowed their son to shave off his beard and cut his hair. Right from the time he was 15. Sure, not everyone is like that, but the educated are like this more often.
    I don’t know whether I managed to explain it, but I think I understand this really well as almost half my family and three-quarters of my close friends live in America.

  6. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 14, 2008 10:04 am


    My own generalised observation, based on MY group of relatives, friends and acquaintances, as well as on the several Indians I’ve had occasion to observe and talk to without knowing them too well, is that those in the academic world seem to integrate and interact much better than those in the other universes.

    I think it also has to do with how much interest one evinces in the culture of the host country. And if, in the first place, one is indifferent to or barely literate about one’s own culture (as many emigrating Indians unfortunately are) they are not likely to be much interested in the culture of their adoptive land. That is not too promising a way to begin.

  7. Ravi permalink
    March 14, 2008 10:56 am

    From my personal experience I get to know that a black american guy/girl is very fond of black music i.e. blues, R&B and Hip Pop. I had been very much into that type of music since I was in high school and familiar with most of the artists and know the nuances of black music. I have so many black american friends, been to so many music concerts. Initially I had problems to speak in english especially in a way so that they can understand what I meant. Later I had overcome and then only they opened up and some of them even started to talk to them regarding anything including their sex life. When it comes to white americans especially men one NEED to know hell lot of crap on baseball and american football. Since I m sick of sports I have acquaintances but couldn’t be able to become close to guys in our college.

  8. Guqin permalink
    March 14, 2008 2:59 pm

    Nita and Vivek,

    Speaking of “Asian Americans” as a whole, besides cultural differences, willness etc. there is a most important factor:

    In my estimate, the blacks are the only truly successful minority in the US though they fill up the prisons and make bad money, since with Martin Luther King’s leadership they have made a difference in the reality, especially the moral reality of this nation. Morally they are on equal terms with the whites. They don’t need to seek aproval by mixing in. Other minorities are only decorations to this nation, and their “Americanized” (“white-washed” in fact) children are imitations to the whites ( In contrast, black kids always distinguish themselves from the whites, they even invented their own dialect). No one takes decorations seriously and no one truly respect imitations. Unfortunately, Asian-Americans have not learnt this lesson. But without understanding this, they have a hard time in intreprating this nation consistently, let alone to mix in in the proper sense.

    Asian-American scientists, engineerers, doctors are only intellectual laborers, and thus make no differences in this nation in a fundamental level like the blacks have. In this sense, I wouldn’t consider Asian-Americans a “successful” group in the first place. However, I think Indian Gurus, Chinese herb medicine and Tai Chi instructors etc., are received better since they do bring in something new and thus make a difference in this nation.

    Regarding the academia, I think there are several reasons: 1) The artificial purity of the ivory tower. 2) Asians there are already westernized due to their intellectual pratices. 3) Their intellectual superiority is undeniable, for instance, the living “Mozart of Mathematics” is Asian by origin (Terence Tao in UCLA).

  9. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 14, 2008 3:33 pm


    What you say about the American blacks as against the Asian Americans vis-a-vis the whites, is very true. But there are fundamental differences. Firstly, they did not voluntarily come to inhabit the land. They were brought in by the whites predominantly as slaves. Even though on inequitable terms, they have been partners in the development of the United States and its society. So despite their having been victims of discrimination, their right to be considered Americans and their loyalty to their country are beyond question.

    The same cannot be said of the Asian Americans, who largely came uninvited, and primarily to take advantage of the opportunities offered by North America to improve their lives. Their loyalties are still split, in varying degrees, between country of origin and of adoption; though in all probability, those at the very top levels of achievement and recognition probably do not identify much with their roots.

  10. deconstructor permalink
    March 14, 2008 5:49 pm

    There is a lot more to becoming American than changing food, attire and language.

    Vivek Khadpekar is right. Most Indians – even second generation ones – continue to live and move in self-segregating, self-exotifying groups. Notable exception: Sudhir Venkatesh of Freakonomics fame. Look him up.

    And don’t even talk about racism of whites and others. Have you heard Indians talk about African-Americans? The level of prejudice makes my toes curl in shame and revulsion.

    As for Indian-Americans being the most whatever… did you know that they are now also the fastest growing segment of the illegal immigrant population? Going by current patterns of immigration, Indians will not only not remain the highest anything group in about 5 years, we will also give up the warm welcome that we have received all these years.

    Finally Gugin is right. African-Americans are the only successful minority. To have survived all that they survived for the last 300 years and then offer the world a Martin Luther King is … I cannot think of the word … exceptional sounds too lame. How many other races would be able to offer a message of peace, justice and love, AFTER having known only the exact opposite of all that?

  11. March 14, 2008 6:41 pm

    Ravi, thanks for that sharing that experience. I have heard that Indians in the US can be racist towards blacks and prefer to mix with the whites.

    Gugin, Blacks are Americans. Maybe they are a minority but certainly they cannot be compared to immigrants. I think Vivek has said whatever else I wanted to say about this.

    Vivek, I do not see integration in absolute terms. It is not as if you are “integrated” or “not integrated.’ there are gray areas and certainly I feel educated Indians in America attempt to integrate.

    deconstructor,, you say there “is a lot more to becoming American than changing food, attire and language.”
    Who in the world said there isn’t? I certainly didn’t.
    I clearly used the word “superficially” but looks like you didn’t read my post properly.
    Nor have I talked about whites being racist. I did not say that at all…I said they were not racist. Probably, as I do not live in America.
    In any case this post is not about racism as such.
    funny, your comment… 🙂

  12. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 14, 2008 6:51 pm


    //Indian-Americans…are now also the fastest growing segment of the illegal immigrant population…//

    I have encountered this statement a few times in recent times, but without supporting data. Knowing our people, I am willing to believe it. But can you guide me to reliable sources to this information?

  13. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 14, 2008 6:58 pm


    I did not say anything about absolute integration. We are unable to achieve it even in our own country (and given the way its advocates define “integration”, it’s just as well).

    What I mean is the judgmental, holier-than-thou attitude I find in many Indians settled abroad towards their host culture, and the lack of attempt, or even interest, to meet them halfway.

    I do not say abandon your cultural roots, but try to take what is good from theirs, and also demonstrate to them what is good about yours.

    Vivek, well I have come across both kinds of people, those who have a disdain for their host culture and those who have a disdain for India. Main thing is to strike a balance. It would be interesting though to look at statistics or studies of those Indian Americans who are successful and see whether they have a disdain for their host culture or a disdain for India. – Nita.

  14. March 14, 2008 7:10 pm


    I wonder how the ToI published what seems to be a rumour without verifying the facts.

    I think African-Americans have contributed so much to the United States (and the whole world ! ) in terms of sports,culture,etc. but unfortunately their contributions have not got the recognition they deserve to get.Sadly,they are viewed in a negative light but it is not their fault entirely.

    The Hispanic-Americans too,are becoming an important part of the cultural diversity of the United States.

  15. deconstructor permalink
    March 14, 2008 7:50 pm

    Vivek – I saw the story in the San Jose Mercury News:

  16. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 14, 2008 8:48 pm


    Thanks for that link. It appears to be a very different situation than what your initial comment suggested (about their being the fastest growing segment of the illegal immigrant population).

    While there are undoubtedly some wilfully illegal immigrants, that is very different from being rendered illegal owing to the legal technicalities affecting legally acquired visas.

    I do however find the following part of the report risible (to use a polite word):

    “America is a very attractive country; everybody who comes here wants to stay,” said Shah Peerally, a Silicon Valley immigration lawyer. “I can tell you right now, there are nearly 1 billion people in India, of which maybe 800 million want to come here.”

    Mr. Peerally is entitled to his views, but I would feel very uncomfortable if the city of 5 million in which I live, were to be suddenly reduced to 1million. Think of Detroit (to cite an instance with which I am both statistically and visually familiar).

    The Republic of India is too young to have ghost cities. We do have a few, but they were reduced to that condition some centuries ago, long before we were unified into a single State out of 600-odd principalities ranging in size from the Vatican to maybe Austria.

  17. Ravi permalink
    March 14, 2008 9:11 pm

    Black Americans hate calling them “African Americans”. I came to know this from one of my friend who is a black and he said “I m black and I hate somebody calling me African American”. They are friendly and courteous like any American (from south) but there were instances where I got scared seeing some people especially in music concerts. I don’t know where these people come from they were like 7 ft tall well built and the way they say ‘hi’ scares the shit out of me 🙂

    Nita, you are right in saying that even we (Indians) behave different with blacks. I have rarely seen an Indian hanging out with a black American. Firstly we have this false impression on them that all blacks are criminals and gangsters (maybe some of ‘em). But it has to do more with the inkling towards their way of living. I cannot blame Indians for staying away with blacks because the problem is our inability to understand Ebonics. One must be familiar with this slang to get along with them which is too much to expect from any Indian. Hindi speaking people failed repeatedly to pick up regional languages and non-hindi speaking people finding an easy-to-learn language like Hindi hard. And the music we listen to even though we have diehard fans of hip-pop and I have come across a person who imitates 50-cent and R Kelly but fails to appreciate Ebonics.

    But we love hanging out with white Americans. We talk bad about India only to impress them. I have come across Indians actually they really love to be an Indian (listens to Indian music/ loves Indian food and likes hanging out with Indian chicks) but talks bad about it with Americans. I hate to be an Indian but I don’t bad mouth India or Indians when I m around other races. It’s my opinion and I m fully aware that nobody cares how I feel being an Indian and I also know there are good Americans but I just hate our culture.

    Indians acquired this terrible habit from our culture to hate people who are poor and show no respect to their culture and beliefs. We are getting away with that attitude of seeing poor with disdain in India but not here. No way. I had been with Americans for about a year but I was never asked my salary and financial status. There were instances where even a girl (American) preferred to pass on lunch or dinner citing her financial restrictions. But nobody in our group seems cared and she never lost respect for confessing that she is poor. That was awesome. It could never happen in India. I have seen people in India hating others for no good reason besides being poor. We see this black people (darker than us) feel happy inside and tends to behave racist towards them since there is no one else left in US to show our superiority. Recently two Indian students from Andhra Pradesh were killed in their apartments by black dudes while their wives went out for shopping. It’s not a burglary not a single item was reported missing they just killed them; definitely there should be some reason which haven’t seen the light. When we come to us we should remember that India is a poor country and nobody wanted to hear shit from India. But some people think that we should never leave our rich culture behind (maybe it is) but it’s more important to live like an American in America while retaining our Indian identity inside.

    Ravi, thank you very much for this sharing your experiences. It has increased my understanding of how Indians behave. It is indeed quite upsetting to know that there are some Indians who malign India to suck up to the Whites. Also you are right about the lack of dignity that labour has here. That is one of things I too admire about America, their respect for labour. – Nita.

  18. March 14, 2008 9:42 pm

    I very much appreciate the ambition, talent, skills, and respect for family that Americans (and legal residents) from India have.

    There are many erroneous stereotypes put forth by ignorant people in the U.S. regarding Indian peoples. One example is Apoo, the convenience store owner on the Fox animated series “The Simpsons.” Apoo is portrayed as selling out of date pork products and regretful about marrying his wife and siring so many children. I think this is destructive and many take it for fact.

    I support Indians world-wide. I hope they support me too because I think we have a lot in common. I love their food and I admire their beautiful women. I know I am not supposed to date them, but in my case, I do not blame them for wanting to protect their daughters from someone like me.

  19. March 14, 2008 10:46 pm


    I am not so sure of that.Maybe some of them may not like to be called African-American,but from what I found out most of them prefer to be called either as Black Americans or African-Americans.I like to hear the way in which they speak because it is different but not many people do.

  20. sangeeta permalink
    March 14, 2008 11:22 pm

    Vivek ,

    Regarding ..

    “America is a very attractive country; everybody who comes here wants to stay,” said Shah Peerally, a Silicon Valley immigration lawyer. “I can tell you right now, there are nearly 1 billion people in India, of which maybe 800 million want to come here.”

    You have pointed out rightly regarding the article in San Jose Mercury News.I had read this article some time back and was surprised that anybody could make such senseless and stupid claim!!and that a newspaper like Mercury News would publish it!!

  21. Ravi permalink
    March 15, 2008 4:21 am


    You can date indian women but I m really sad say that our women (most of em) see the guy’s caste, religion and region as a criteria in order to fall in love. In India love is more mechanical and it has nothin to do with feelings. I m not saying everybody is like that but majority of us do.

    I m guessing you’re an american and you should be glad to be an american at least you don’t to have to care if you belong to Georgia, Illinois or Phili as long as you are funny (not goofy) and confident to make an american women fall for you. Thats awesome. In india it goes like this a guy loves a girl and she says that they don’t belong to same caste and that guy has to realize he could’ve born in her caste to have her for the rest of his life which is not practically possible. You know what I m saying?

    You said “I do not blame them for wanting to protect their daughters from someone like me.” I couldn’t understand what do you meant by that.

  22. Ravi permalink
    March 15, 2008 4:32 am

    “America is a very attractive country; everybody who comes here wants to stay,” said Shah Peerally. There is partial truth in her/his statement. But there are guys who wanted to go back to india once they finish their education.

    I got to hear from a friend of mine that some illegal immigrants from india are crossed through border in cotton/beef carrying vehicles. You will be shocked to know that some of em die while doing that.

  23. March 15, 2008 6:02 am

    Sangeeta and vivek: I’ve read this a couple of times and still wonder what was wrong in the news article you allude to. It is a fact even after a decade and half that most Indians come here to stay. The lawyer was only exaggerating to make a point that America is pretty much the place to be. The simple fact in spite of some who do not want to add to its bloated ego is simply this: America is the greatest nation on earth since the Roman Empire and is only likely to advance even further depending on its people. But no one ever said that others were unworthy though the common feeling is the opposite and they blame America for it.

    On India and Indians we have to blame ourselves for each crash landing following an euphoric event, news or whatever. A lot of us are just plain ignorant that 70% of us are dependent on farming. Yes, we were told repeatedly in school but we don’t relate that to real life. Most of the Indians who came to the states in the last 15 years are from cities and it is hard not to wince when they go public and try to present India as “developed” based on a few computers and cars. Here <2 farmers produce food for 99+ and have excess to feed a good part of the world. Let’s examine our homes and see how many of our scientists practice science at home and how many of our Engineers don’t go searching for help to have something fixed in their homes or office. I know a good doctor friend here in the US who spent 4 days in the hospital…no flu etc just fell sick ! Nothing grave but…… a doctor ! Mind you 1 day in a hospital is serious and expensive. That shows how stupidly bookish we are. People outside have raised the issue of Katrina but not many realize that all the people affected were warned well ahead. Besides people there knew the perils of choosing to live below sea level where pumps are at constant work. There is no such thing as a failure in the US no matter how you want to define it. The alternative is only a month away for a good contingent of the population to join the soup line. In India you have a house and it is warm. So we talk the day away (generally). A pretty good percentage of the Indians wage their bets on the US from firm footholds in India to which they think they can always return. It is not like they all risked their life earnings. Many like me made it through Africa after working there. A lot of us realize the stark reality only after getting here. In spite of it I have to say that it is the nation itself that helps a willing individual on to his or her feet to make a go for it. You have to admire especially many ordinary Indian women with less education who choose to stick it out and make an effort against immense odds.

  24. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 15, 2008 7:19 am

    nehru mantri:

    Speaking for myself, I was irritated by the facetiousness bordering on fatuousness that was inherent in Mr. Shah Pirally’s exaggeration — especially when it would not be recognised as such by most SJMN readers, including the Indian batallion of cybercoolies in Silicon Valley. Mr. Pirally’s name suggests an Indian, or at least a South Asian identity, and one would expect him, as a lawyer, to be endowed with a better informed perspective than, say, a Hindi film star (I repeat — “star”, not “actor”), a cricketer, a fashion model or any of the other airheads that opiate the lives of the Indian masses (including NRIs).

    I heartily congratulate you on your plain-speaking second paragraph (“On India and Indians…” etc.) and particularly on the phrase “each crash landing following an euphoric event”. It seems many of us live almost exclusively for such events, from one to the next, and would happily manufacture euphoria (should I have said “masturbate to produce”?) if nothing happens to spontaneously generate it. And we have a tremendously masochistic drive to persist, despite the metronomically recurrent crash landings.

  25. March 15, 2008 10:29 am

    Nita: Nice post, with great research, as usual!

  26. March 15, 2008 11:54 am

    Nita, as per my observation, not all Indian Americans here do well. A lot of them are software professionals, doctors, lawyers and bankers. On the other hand, a large number of them have motels, small restaurants and gas stations too. It depends upon their education level and what their financial situation in India was like. Most of the people who run gas stations and restaurants were really not well off financially in India. On the other hand, professionals are obviously quite educated and fall into the upper bracket of the society. An average Indian American is definitely more well off financially compared to an average American. Plus, my developing country mentality always always prohibits me from spending too much and cutting corners 😉 An average American saves around 10-15% of his salary, which is really not enough because people are living longer. So we need to save more. Like you mentioned in your post, the fact that Indians cut corners and are willing to work harder- to either adjust or to earn respect or security or some other reason- are some of the reasons why they are doing well. Plus, I’ve seen that most first generation Indian Americans still remain very very Indian at heart. Their kids might be more American by nature, of course and the way they grow up as adults depends upon what kind of values their parents inculcate in them. But on an average, Indian Americans do put more pressure on their kids to do well in studies and other stuff. This is only a personal observation and others might disagree with me. 🙂

  27. March 15, 2008 8:02 pm

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  28. Ravi permalink
    March 15, 2008 8:09 pm

    OMG! Vivek K and Nehru your posts made me realize a lot of things. Thanks. 🙂

  29. March 15, 2008 9:31 pm

    Very exhaustive research. well done. Even though the reality is different, emotive reaction of an M.P. is understandable. But considering parliament as a people forum, without verifying the veracity, the discussion is unwarranted.

  30. March 15, 2008 10:53 pm

    Hi Johnny. I am sure you can date Indian girls because everyone is not conservative! 🙂 True what you say about stereotypes…but I think those kind of stereotypes are held by ignorant people all over the world, not just americans.

    Ravi, Nehru M, thanks for your comments. About this article that everyone is talking about, well yes it’s an exaggeration but I too think it’s a bit offensive. These kind of generalisations, made to make a point, can be offensive. The majority of people in India live in the rural areas and do not even dream of going to America. They dream of how to survive that particular month. About the urban lot, yes perhaps people dream to going to America, but also a lot of Indian who don’t want to go. yes, a minority perhaps.
    But I also know Indians in the US who would love to come back but cannot as they cannot get the right jobs here.
    Yes I too admire America but would not ever migrate, but I guess I am in the minority.

    Balkrishnan, Mahendra, thanks. 🙂

    Ruhi, thanks for sharing that experience. I guess the people of Indian origin who live there are a very diverse lot. I do agree that Indian families there tend to put pressure on their kids to succeed, but with each succeeding generation the ‘Indiannes’ of these people is sure to decrease…I wonder if Indians can hang on to their culture and values after 5 generations? I don’t know.

  31. March 16, 2008 6:24 am

    Nita, Ravi, Vivek; Appreciate that my comments were ok with all of you and to Ruhi for your good input as well. I never saw myself being in the US back in India at one time but here I am. Strange as it may seem I did get my nirvana after being here for a couple of years. I don’t think I could have afforded for myself a computer to chat on your blog were I India. Though not completely an(un)padh I may have been a kuchpadh pappad. But I would like to add an important point here. Split loyalties are undesireable, if you ask me. I have two children and they are looking at the world through us, their parents_very closely. We as parents have to strongly ground them in a place so they are psychologically set free to mix and participate in the society they will eventually live in. If we are happy they are happy. The love for a chosen country has to come through pretty naturally for them to feel or else they will inherit our insecurities and will unnecessarily be carrying a burden for no fault on their part. While the academic success of Asians is something to be proud of we (Indians) do not produce rounded individuals (sports/arts/music/theater) unlike others who encourage a full fledged personality. Combining this with an identity crisis would certainly make you wish you never left home to begin with. Of course there are exceptions to what I am saying but this has been my general experience.

    If by chance I had migrated, I know my loyalties would have been to my host country. It is impossible for me (by temperament) to have split loyalties to anything. Sure I might have had feelings of nostalgia or similar feelings towards one’s birth mother, but the real love is for the adopted one. In fact I always wonder at those people who cheer for the Indian cricket team even though they are of another nationality. – Nita.

  32. March 16, 2008 9:32 pm

    I wouldn’t doubt you Nita. I did want to add a small note on Bobby Jindall. I do not think he denied his roots. In fact there were too many supporters of indian origin in his office when watching election results come in (they say almost 70 %) the first time he ran for office that had his campaign managers worried about sending out wrong signals in public. If he were to deny his roots and show disdain for his fellow countrymen the public would have fried him. He is a politician and I suppose he is honest to a certain extent since he has made an effort to understand the issues and wants to help. He would have acquired this through attending church and mixing with the community regularly, manage church and other community activities which would have emboldened him later to get a political payback. Needless to say the public here like anywhere is interested to support if he will work for them and deliver what he says. To do that he has to speak to the hearts and minds of the people in the area and it is no easy thing. I see Sanjay Gupta on CNN a lot. He is proud of his Indian heritage and happy as can be as an American.

  33. sangeeta permalink
    March 17, 2008 12:49 am

    Nehru M,

    I was just reacting to the highly higly exaggerated claim pfreffeermade by Mr Shah Perally,it actually bordered on being stupid!!.Educated people should think twice before making such fatuous claims especially when the majority of people reading this article would have very little knowledge about India and it would give them wrong ideas .
    I have many friends and relatives who wouldn’t want to move to US because things have improved back home(esp the urban areas).Saying this I don’t want to undermine the fact that US still attracts the largest number of people from all over the world and is one of the most preferred places to stay.

    I am living in US for almost 9 years now,and there is no question of me having any split loyalties,my loyalties will always be towards my adopted land .I will always be indebted to this country for what it has done for me and for what I have learnt here.Infact whatever I have learnt here is much more valuable and irreplaceable than what I learnt back home(eg respect for any kind of labour,respect and love for community,civic sense,and much more ).The sense of belonging and respect will always grow more.

  34. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 17, 2008 6:35 am

    Nita, Sangeeta, Nehru,

    In the cold war years, when countries such as the US had conscription for all young adults, including immigrants who were potential citizens, that was the acid test of loyalty. People had to be mentally prepared for the hypothetical possibility that if their host country went to war with their country of origin, they *could* be asked to take up arms against their motherland. Of course there were ways of legitimately dodging the draft (practised mainly by white Americans) or refusing to be conscripted for reasons of conscience (practised by those who were willing to face the cosequences, such as a term in prison).

    The scene today is totally different. Even if conscription were to be reintroduced, security considerations would automatically preclude the induction of people from some countries of origin.

  35. March 17, 2008 7:30 am

    Vivek, I didn’t know that even immigrants could be picked up for conscription. That’s very interesting.
    Sangeeta, you are right things are changing in urban India today. one keeps hearing of IIM grads who are getting huge salaries here and therefore not that eager to migrate. In fact techies too hare getting paid well here. Plus buying a car is not as difficult for the middle class as it was some time ago, as the used car market is thriving. True, housing is still not easy…but overall things have changed for the better here for certain classes of society. and I had not taken that into account, the changing scenario in India. What is upsetting is that people in America think our country in as bad a shape as it was 20 years ago and I think many Indian Americans who have migrated 15 years ago might think that.
    Also a lot of people in the west think of India as a third world country…but I think they have not lived in third world countries like say in Africa or even in Bangla Desh or Pakistan. O.K. so India is not doing that well as say Brazil in terms of overall development, but we are not strictly a third world country anymore. Why, in a disaster the govt. has sufficient reserves that we don’t have to go around with a begging bowl. A long way to go for equitable development but claims that Indians in general want to beat a path to America’s door isn’t true. What I find more true is that once Indians do go there, they find life good and may not want to come back. So this feelings are more true of Indian Americans, not Indians.
    And now that there are fears that America will go into recession, even fewer Indians might want to go from here…so really the claim in that article was not just an exaggeration, it was stupid as you say Sangeeta. Glad to hear this from a person who lives there.

  36. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 17, 2008 10:22 am


    //I didn’t know that even immigrants could be picked up for conscription//

    Now that you mention this, I’ve begun to doubt the correctness of my own statement. It is based on memories of a conversation over drinks in the late 1960s, with a couple of friends (both white Americans) who were Fulbright fellows in India.

    It actually started with their confessions of how, in quick succession, they had registered for their Masters and PhDs in the US, primarily because it provided a legitimate escape route from being drafted. Then, as conversations over drinks often do, it veered to the hypothetical topic of conscription of legal immigrants seeking US citizenship. So I’ll have to check out the point you make.

    I was rather surprised by that information actually! Because from the US govt. point of view they would want loyal citizens. – Nita.

  37. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 17, 2008 10:55 am


    I wouldn’t immediately rule out that information. We are talking about the 1960s, remember, when the main US preoccupation was Vietnam, and of course the cold war. And the McCarthyist witch-hunts were still recent memory. The loyalty of migrants from South Asia would not be as subject to suspicion as it would be today.

    In fact I had a friend (Indian, much older than I and now no more) who, in the early 1950s, enrolled to study Korean at SOAS in London because the Professor of Chinese, which he actually wanted to study, was away on a sabbatical. After he finished, he found immediate employment with the US Army which was then preoccupied with Korea, and desperately needed translators.

  38. krenim permalink
    March 17, 2008 1:35 pm

    Its pathetic that Indians resort to this sort of comparisons.I mean seriously when was the last time you heard Germans gloat about building NASA(which they actually did werner von braun etc),or the French feel particularly proud about Du Pont chemicals.

    I mean it is fine for asian indians to gloat about their success as a community but to have a major country like India take ‘pride’ in what people originally from their country has done abroad is pathetic.

    Tend to agree with you here Krenim. But this sort of thing is normal here. Not only are the achievements of Indians abroad talked about and written about, they are actually hyped! Perhaps it’s some sort of inferiority complex… 🙂 – Nita.

  39. sangeeta permalink
    March 18, 2008 12:01 am


    Conscription is not mandatory anymore,it was also not limited to citizens only.Actually those appearing for the oath of Citizenship of US need to swear to the following.
    “that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law”.Failing to do so could be grounds for denial of citizenship.
    You can check this

  40. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 18, 2008 4:27 am


    I KNOW there is no conscription any more. I was referring to the period when there was. That was the main thrust of my debate with Nita.

    Anyway, your information suggests that, in its day, it was applicable to an even wider range of categories of residents than naturalised citizens — or at least that the possibility was mooted as a loyalty test for applicants for citizenship.

    The link you provided is very educative:

    //Selective Service (and the draft) is not limited to citizens. Non-citizen males … who are permanent residents (holders of green cards), seasonal agricultural workers, refugees, parolees, asylees, and even illegal immigrants, are required to register with the Selective Service System. Refusal to do so is grounds for denial of a future citizenship application… immigrants who seek to naturalize as citizens must, as part of the Oath of Citizenship, swear to … etc.//

    So it is in fact even more far-reaching than either Nita or I thought.

    Following that, some speculative thinking:

    To pull through the current economic crisis the US will willy-nilly have to embark upon a major external military adventure somewhere in the world — most likely in Asia — as a diversionary circus for its own disgruntled citizens. And the draft may well be reintroduced. If this happens it would be good to see all our starry-eyed dreamers of El Dorado from India, who are already there, inducted for some back-breaking work, working shoulder-to-shoulder with people who eat all kinds of unmentionable food; and worse — god forbid — be commanded by blacks! 🙂

    PS: One thing that the Iraq adventure demonstrated was that even after discontinuing conscription at home, the US could still crack the whip to arm-twist its NATO and othe allies to chip in with fighting forces, irrespective of what those allies’ own thoughts were on the invasion of Iraq.

  41. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 18, 2008 4:55 am


    What Nita says about “this sort of thing” being “normal here” is true of a certain class that is reasonably comfortable, is culturally and intellectually decadent if not moribund and, being overwhelmingly a class of spectators desparate for circuses, if not bread, finds fulfilment of its nationalistic pride through vicarious participation in the achievements of perceived fellow Indians, real or imagined.

    It is only this class that can claim a Hargobind Khurana (without knowing anything about what he actually did) and a Mother Terea as compatriots on the same footing, go pathetically ga-ga over a Sunita Williams who is about as Indian as apple pie, or celebrate an American Idol that makes me cringe with embarrassment (paricularly because his name suggests not only Indian but also Maharashtrian roots).

    The British, during their longish stay in India, brought in a number of things, some good and some bad. The most unforgivable thing they did was to introduce us to jingoism. It is alive and well in India today, thank you, whatever its status in its home country.

  42. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 18, 2008 5:07 am


    Regarding my comment on the American Idol contestant, my apologies for shooting from the hip. It turns out Sanjaya Malakar has a Bengali father and an Italian mother. So he is 50% Indian. But that still does not justify the jingoistic gushings of his fan club here in India.

    Even that astronaut is only 50 percent Indian origin. – Nita.

  43. March 18, 2008 9:34 am

    ** Taslima gives in to pressure, says will leave India:

    “I have always considered India my home and had come here from abroad after 12 years. They [the government] are now turning me out,” she said.

    —– Can you believe, that for the purpose a vote bank ruling government parties can kill the real freedom of rvolutionary speech for women,and the rights of the people in a big democracy in the world?
    “There are many countries ready to welcome me,’’ she said.
    Do we care to support her?

  44. sangeeta permalink
    March 18, 2008 10:57 am


    As always your comments are educative,relevant and very entertaining !!(unfortunately I don’t know why I can’t seem to use emoticons work on my browser!!).
    Though I am doubtful whether the draft will be introduced again,knowing how unpopular the war is,it will face tremendous opposition.
    “The starry eyed dreamers”will definitely find ways to wiggle out of such a deal!!

    Nita – I have come across quite a few Indians/Asians who do believe that the silicon Valley is what it is only due to them, because of their superior intellect/hard work etc as the locals are not hardworking enough (I don’t intend to undermine the enormous contribution of Asian/Indians )but i feel this kind of misplaced pride is preposterous and absurd.

  45. March 20, 2008 11:47 am

    I recieved a very interesting report by email and this concerns Indians in America. As it has emerged in the comments that Indians are mostly desperate to settle in the U.S. and there have been contrary views, I thought I would provide a link to this report. Sure, it is perhaps just the beginning of a trend, certainly a long way before it becomes a flood, but it does give some insights as to why Indians in America want to come back to India.
    This is the link. (PDF file)

  46. Ravi permalink
    March 20, 2008 8:10 pm


    Indian govt is lame.

  47. Ravi permalink
    March 20, 2008 9:23 pm


    I have just read the report and thanks for posting it. I really liked reading it and I will recommend to my friends as well. The author is flawless in expressing her views and made sense. Importantly her comparison of amrican and indian cultures is commendable. It was like a flow of events and gripping. Thanks again for sharing the report.

  48. axinia permalink
    March 20, 2008 10:25 pm

    Immigration is a very interesting topic and as I told you before, many Russians want – and do goback! -to Russia after they have tasted that Western life… I was not aware about Indian, it is intresting that there is a trend like this. Love this very well done article, thanks!


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