In America's cultural mosaic, the Indian American community stands as a testament to the beauty of diversity and the power of unity. With each passing day, this community weaves new threads into the intricate fabric of the nation's narrative. From bustling city streets to quiet suburban neighbourhoods, Indian Americans bring their traditions, values, and aspirations, enriching the collective experience. However, as they forge ahead, they encounter an array of challenges that demand their determination.
Uncover the dynamic journey of the Indian American community – their evolving identity, cultural shifts, and triumphs in the face of adversity. Explore the changes and challenges shaping their path in this insightful blog.
Table of Contents
Terminology of "Indian American"
The Indian American community is a mix of cultures and stories, brought together by their shared experience of living in the U.S. while holding onto their Indian heritage. This group includes people who moved from India and those born in the U.S. to Indian parents. The term "Indian American" shows how they connect with India's history and American life.
In addition to "Indian Americans," other terms often used to describe this community include Asian Indian and South Asian Americans. These terms refer to the geographic region of South Asia, which includes countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and the Maldives.
The terminology is vital to understanding America's diverse communities. "Indian Americans" refers to people of Indian origin living in the U.S., emphasizing their Indian heritage and American connection. It's crucial to differentiate from "Native Americans," who are the Indigenous people of the U.S.
As the Indian-American community grows, the term represents more than just a label. It encompasses their struggles, successes, and the legacy they're leaving. By contributing to American society, sticking together during challenges, and preserving their culture, Indian Americans add to the diverse American story.
The history of the Indian American community is a tale of courage and growth. During the colonial era, Indian servants and enslaved people were among the early Indian immigrants who arrived in America. However, it was not until the late 20th century that there was a significant influx of Indian immigrants to the United States.
It started in the early 1900s when the first Indians came to the U.S. seeking better lives. They worked in farming and building railways. Despite their contributions, Indian immigrants faced legal restrictions under the Asian Exclusion Act of 1917, which effectively barred further immigration from India.
These restrictions were eventually lifted in 1946, marking a turning point for Indian immigration to the United States. Since then, Indian immigrants have become one of the country's largest and fastest-growing immigrant groups.
Around the 1950s, Indians joined the fight for equal rights, just like others in America. The 1965 Immigration Act helped more Indians come to the U.S. without facing unfair rules.
Today, Indian Americans shine in many areas. They're doctors, engineers, and technology leaders. They share their Indian culture through festivals and food, and they also take part in politics.
But it can be challenging. Indian Americans work hard to keep their heritage while fitting into American society. They face stereotypes and challenges, yet they show the beauty of diversity and the strength of unity.
Indian Immigrants in the United States
Indian immigration to the United States has mostly happened recently. It has happened in different waves starting from the 1700s. The first Indians came to the U.S. a long time ago. Many people from the Punjab region in India moved to California around the early 1900s. Then, more Indians arrived in the 1950s, mainly as students and professionals.
Before 1965, some rules mainly allowed Europeans to come. But in 1965, Congress changed these rules. After that, many people from India and other non-European countries started coming to the U.S. quickly.
In the contemporary landscape, individuals of Indian origin constitute the second-largest immigrant community in the United States, ranking just after Mexicans and preceding both the Chinese and Filipinos. In 2021, there were about 2.7 million Indian immigrants in the U.S., which is around 6% of all immigrants, which is still growing.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, the first Indian immigrants had more straightforward jobs. However, the Indians who came after World War II mostly got better jobs or went to American colleges and universities to learn.
Nowadays, many Indians come to the U.S. for work or to be with their families. India also sends many students to American colleges, and many Indians get special work visas for high-skilled jobs. That's why a lot of Indian immigrants have at least a bachelor's degree, and they earn more money on average compared to other immigrants and people born in the U.S.
Indian immigrants in the United States exhibit significantly higher income levels when compared to both the total foreign-born and native-born populations. During 1980, the median household income among Indian Americans was observed to lag behind that of Japanese and Filipino communities. But as of 2021, the median household income led by Indian immigrants displayed an annual income of $150,000, a noteworthy contrast to the $70,000 income observed within all immigrant and native-led households.
Furthermore, Indian immigrants demonstrated a lower likelihood of experiencing poverty in 2021. Only 5% of Indian immigrants were found to be in poverty, showcasing a considerable difference in comparison to the 14% of immigrants overall and the 13% of the U.S.-born population who faced poverty.
Not many people know about the increase in Indians coming to the U.S.-Mexico border without permission. Between 2021 and 2022, border authorities met Indian migrants 18,300 times, which is much more than 2,600 the year before. This could be because of problems in India related to religion and politics, not enough jobs in India, fewer travel rules due to the pandemic, and long wait times for legal immigration to the U.S.
Facts about Indians in the USA
The Indian community in the United States has experienced remarkable growth. It has become a significant economic force in recent years. With a high level of educational attainment and entrepreneurial spirit, Indian immigrants have created a notable presence in various sectors of the American economy.
Indian immigrants have demonstrated a remarkable upward trajectory in terms of their population growth. According to the American Community Survey, the Indian population in the United States more than doubled between 2000 and 2017, making it one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups.
Moreover, Indian immigrants are known for their strong educational background. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over three-quarters of Indian immigrants in the United States hold a bachelor's degree or postgraduate degree or higher. This high educational attainment has played a vital role in establishing a solid economic power within the community.
The Indian community is dispersed across various metropolitan areas in the United States. Some of the top metropolitan areas with significant Indian populations include San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Washington, D.C. These locations have attracted Indian immigrants due to their thriving job markets and educational opportunities.
With impressive population growth, high educational attainment, and notable presence in key metropolitan areas, Indian Americans in the United States continue contributing significantly to the nation's economy and cultural diversity.
Students in the USA
According to the most recent information supplied by the esteemed Institute of International Education (IIE), India has achieved the distinction of being the leading country in terms of sending the largest number of international students to the United States. The academic year 2001-02 report elucidates that the number of Indian students pursuing studies in the U.S. stands at 66,836. This figure exhibits a notable 22% augmentation in the following years.
Due to this substantial growth, Indian Population has effectively surpassed China to emerge as the foremost sending nation. At present, a group of 66,836 students from India constitutes approximately 12% of the overall population of international students studying in the United States.
A significant portion of almost three-fourths of the group possesses a college education. Precisely, 40% of the participants have accomplished postgraduate studies. Another 33% have proudly completed their four-year undergraduate journey.
Furthermore, 4% of the respondents have accomplished the rigorous curriculum of a junior college, a two-year program that imparts specialized knowledge. Meanwhile, 9% have embarked on a path of education by completing some college courses. 13% of the participants proudly hold a high school diploma, showcasing a foundational level of education that equips them with essential skills.
The fields of study that international students prefer the most in the United States include business and management, which accounts for 20%, and engineering, chosen by 15% of Indian students. A significant 13% of international students are enrolled in mathematics and computer sciences, showing a remarkable growth of 13% compared to the previous year's statistics. This follows an 18% increase from the year before. Additionally, 150 American colleges and universities have welcomed 1,000 or more international students into their campuses.
In 2006, almost one out of every seven international students studying in the United States was from India. They were the biggest group of international students that year, even though their numbers dropped by 5% from the previous year.
Regarding states, Indian American students mostly favoured Texas, New York, California, and Illinois. Yet, in South Dakota, Mississippi, and Louisiana, most Asian American students were Indians.
When it comes to U.S. islands, Indians didn't go there to study. Although Indians didn't make it to the top 10 list of international students in Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico, they did manage to secure the 7th position in the Virgin Isles. However, this accomplishment came with only three Indian students.
Religion of Indian Americans
Indian Americans represent diverse religious affiliations, reflecting the rich tapestry of India's spiritual heritage. According to recent data, their religious distribution is as follows:
Most Indian Americans identify as Hindu, making up approximately 70% of the community. Among the Indian American community, Hindus constitute the predominant religious group. This community boasts established organizations like ISKCON, Swaminarayan Sampraday, and BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Hindu Americans have also founded the Hindu American Foundation, which educates people about Hinduism and advocates for their interests.
Swami Vivekananda notably facilitated the introduction of Hinduism to the West during the 1893 Parliament of the World's Religions. The Vedanta Society has continued to play a significant role in subsequent Parliaments.
In a remarkable alignment, New Jersey partnered with the World Hindu Council in September 2021 to declare October as Hindu Heritage Month. Across the United States, Hindu temples, many constructed by Indian Americans, have emerged in various cities and towns.
In parallel, Yoga has gained tremendous popularity, with more than 18 million Americans now engaging in various forms of this ancient discipline.
Around 10% of Indian Americans adhere to Islam, embracing mosques and Islamic centres as places of worship and community gathering. Indian American Muslims often come together with fellow American Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Myanmar during events that pertain to their faith and religious beliefs. This practice is mirrored among various religious communities. Notably, the Indian Muslim Council – USA is a prominent organization within this community.
Roughly 8% of Indian Americans are Christians, belonging to various denominations and congregations nationwide. There are Catholic Indians who originally come from regions like Goa, Karnataka, and Kerala. They participate in the same services as other American Catholics. Still, they might mark the feast of Saint Francis Xavier as a significant event reflecting their identity.
Meanwhile, Indian American Christians have established the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA) to connect various Indian Christian groups across the U.S. According to FIACONA; the Indian American Christian population is estimated to be around 1,050,000.
Sikhism is practised by about 5% of Indian Americans, with gurdwaras serving as centres for worship and community service. Sikh men and women have been actively contributing to American society.
By 2007, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 Sikhs had settled in the United States. The most prominent Sikh communities are on the East and West Coasts, with smaller groups in Detroit, Chicago, and Austin.
Interestingly, some individuals have converted to Sikhism from non-Punjabi backgrounds. Sikh men are often easily recognizable because they maintain uncut beards and wear turbans, important symbols of their faith.
Jainism and Others
Jainism and other religions and spiritual practices collectively represent the beliefs of around 6% of Indian Americans. Jains in America holds the highest socio-economic status compared to followers of other religions in the United States. The Federation of Jain Associations in North America is an umbrella organization that brings together Jain congregations from the United States and Canada.
The Leading 10 Urban Centers in the U.S. with Vibrant Indian Communities in 2019
According to the 2019 American Community Survey, the top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest Indian population are as follows:
- New York-Newark-Jersey City: This metropolitan area had an estimated Indian population of 547,319.
- Chicago-Naperville-Elgin: This metropolitan area had an estimated Indian population of 303,411.
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: This metropolitan area had an estimated Indian population of 287,505.
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: This metropolitan area had an estimated Indian population of 268,205.
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX: This metropolitan area had an estimated Indian population of 230,417.
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria: This metropolitan area had an estimated Indian population of 224,362.
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA: This metropolitan area had an estimated Indian population of 215,926.
- Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH: This metropolitan area had an estimated Indian population of 199,579.
- Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX: This metropolitan area had an estimated Indian population of 188,973.
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA: This metropolitan area had an estimated Indian population of 161,358.
It is important to note that these figures are estimates, and the actual numbers may vary.
The data for these estimates was collected through the 2019 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey provides important demographic information about the U.S. population, including the country of origin for immigrants and their descendants.
Issues Surrounding the Indian American Community
The Indian Americans are currently grappling with a complex set of issues, notably stemming from the influence of domestic politics from their country of origin. Various factors, including religion, political leadership, political parties, caste, economic policy, and language, drive these divisions within the community. These elements contribute to a multifaceted landscape of discord, affecting the community's role in shaping U.S.-India relations.
Indian Americans often find themselves subjected to racial discrimination. This unfortunate trend has been linked to a phenomenon known as Indophobia. A critical catalyst behind this discrimination is the perception that Indian Americans are connected to the increasing trend of outsourcing and offshoring.
Despite their contributions and integration into American society, incidents of bias and prejudice continue to occur. Indian Americans have faced racial profiling and hate crimes, often mistaken for individuals from other backgrounds due to their skin colour or attire. They also faced religious discrimination beyond several dimensions of their country of origin.
Religion stands out as a pivotal factor in the internal divisions. The polarization that often characterizes different religious groups in India can transcend geographical boundaries, leading to tensions within the Indian diaspora. Additionally, political leaders from India wield significant influence over the community, sometimes further deepening these divisions through their speeches and actions.
Religious stereotyping compounds the challenges faced by American Hindus, particularly those of Indian origin. A stark example occurred on April 5, 2006, when the Hindu Mandir of Minnesota fell victim to vandalism rooted in religious discrimination. The perpetrators inflicted significant damage, leading to staggering destruction worth $200,000.
The Indianapolis FedEx shooting on April 15, 2021, is a grim reminder. The gunman, Brandon Scott Hole, entered a FedEx warehouse, claiming the lives of eight individuals, half of whom were Sikhs. This tragic event left the Sikh community reeling, with victims including Jaswinder Singh, Jasvinder Kaur, Amarjit Sekhon, and Amarjeet Johal.
Language, including regional languages, acts as another fault line, causing fragmentation within the Indian diaspora. These internal divisions affect the community's unity and their collective influence in fostering U.S.-India relations.
According to a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report, approximately 200,000 unauthorized Indian immigrants were present in the United States. This places them as the sixth largest nationality among illegal immigrants, a position shared with Koreans and coming after Mexico. Indian Americans have witnessed a 25% rise in unauthorized immigration since 2000. In 2014, the Pew Research Center estimated that the number of undocumented Indians in the United States was around 450,000.
In contrast to several nations, India has a policy against dual citizenship. As a result, numerous Indian citizens living in the U.S. choose not to pursue American citizenship to retain their Indian nationality. Nonetheless, a significant number of Indian Americans opt for Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status, granting them the privilege to reside and work in India indefinitely.
In conclusion, the Indian American community is a multifaceted tapestry woven with diverse threads, each representing a unique aspect of their history, identity, and challenges. From the early waves of Indian immigrants who sought opportunities in the United States to the present-day students contributing to academia, the community's journey has been marked by resilience and progress. Rooted in a rich history, Indian Americans have forged a remarkable path, becoming integral to the social and economic fabric of the nation.
Amidst these complexities, Indian Americans continue to shine brightly, with their cultural, educational, and economic contributions leaving an indelible mark. As the community navigates through its past, present, and future, addressing the current issues and divisions is crucial to enhancing its role in fostering strong U.S.-India relations.
Which US city has the largest Indian population?
With over 700,000 Indo-Americans, New York City contains the most extensive metropolitan Asian Indian population in the Western Hemisphere.
How many Indian people are in the USA?
Roughly 4.9 million individuals in the United States can be identified as part of the Indian diaspora. This demographic encompasses those born within the borders of India or who have indicated their ancestral roots tracing back to India. These insights have been derived from an analysis conducted by MPI, drawing from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey.
Which is the fastest-growing Indian language in the US?
As surprising as it may sound, Telugu has topped the list of languages with an increasing number of those speaking the language in America.
Who is an American Indian?
American Indians are Native Americans.