Indian Americans are doing well, but not that well!
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.
This 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 asian-nation.org. 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 asian-nation.org 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).