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Indian Americans: The fastest growing and the highest income group

Indian Americans have come a long way since they immigrated to this land of opportunity, especially since the 1960’s. Although there have been many who came to the United States, seeking education and better job opportunities since 1600, the main wave of people of Indian origin started only in the last four decades and ever since they have become one of the fastest growing ethnic communities in the United States. They have excelled in almost all the fields and today they are an elite group with the highest household income along with the highest level of education among all he groups in this country.

According to a 2007 census report, there were as many as 2,765,815 persons of Indian origin living in the United states, constituting 0.9% of the total U.S. population. The median household income for US residents born in India is $91,195 against a $50,740 average for the total population, a recent US survey has revealed. According to the same report, the overall median household income for foreign- born and native US residents is $46,881 and $51,249 respectively.

According to the 2000 census, about 64% of Indian Americans have attained a Bachelor’s degree or more.(compared to 28% nationally, and 44% average for all Asian American groups). Almost 40% of all Indians have a master’s, doctorate or other professional degree, which is five times the national average. (Source: The Indian American Centre for Political Awareness.)

Overall, about 85 per cent of the total US population - 68 per cent of the foreign-born and 88 per cent of the native-born - are high school graduates. Egypt and Nigeria have rates above 60 per cent while about 80 per cent of the US residents born in China are high school graduates.

These high levels of education have enabled Indian Americans to become a productive segment of the American population, with 72.3% participating in the U.S. work force, of which 57.7% are employed in managerial and professional specialties. A University of California, Berkeley, study reported that one-third of the engineers in Silicon Valley are of Indian descent, while 7% of valley hi-tech firms are led by Indian CEOs.

Indian Americans own 50% of all economy lodges and 35% of all hotels in the United States, which have a combined marke t value of almost $40 billion. (Source: Little India Magazine). In 2002, there were over 223,000 Asian Indian-owned firms in the U.S., employing more than 610,000 workers, and generating more than $88 billion in revenue.

The immigration of Indian Americans has taken place in several waves since the first Indian American came to the United States in the 1700s. The first Indian immigrant entered the United States in 1790 as a maritime worker, as part of the early commerce connections between India and the U.S. After that, the next noticeable groups of Indians came to the west- coast of the United States, in the state of Washington, entering from Canada. These early twentieth century immigrants were largely agricultural workers. In the early 1920s only about five thousand Indians resided in the Unites States. At the time Indians were denied citizenship and the right to own land in many states. After World War 11, the U.S. desire for more professionals, particularly doctors, engineers, and entrepreneurs, facilitated the immigration of Indians. In 1946, the Indian Citizenship Bill, co-sponsored in a bipartisan effort of Congressmen Emmanuel Celler and Clare Booth Luce, legalized the ability of Indian immigrants to seek naturalization and granted India a token quota of one hundred immigrants annually. When the Immigration Act of 1965 lifted immigrant quotas that had been in place for more than fifty years, the entry of Indians into the United States increased during the late 1960s and ‘70s. In 1960, estimates showed only five thousand Indians in the United States but by 1970, this population had grown to approximately three hundred and fifty thousand.

A number of Indian Americans came to the U.S. via Indian communities in other countries such as Fiji, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom (where over 2.7% of the population is Indian), Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, Canada, Guyana, Mauritius and nations of Southeast Asia such as Malaysia and Singapore. Indian Americans are mostly Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Jain and are among the most highly educated in American demographics.

According to the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, the Asian Indian population in the United States grew from almost 1,679,000 in 2000 to 2,570,000 in 2007: a growth rate of 53%, the highest for any Asian American community, and among the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States. Indian Americans are the fourth largest Asian American ethnic group, after Hispanics, Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans.

In the year 2006, of the entire total 1,266,264 legal immigrants to USA from all the countries, 58,072 were from India.

Immigration from India is currently at its highest level in history. Between 2000 and 2006 421,006 Indian immigrants were admitted to the United States, up from 352,278 during the 1990-1999 period.

According to the US census, the overall growth rate for Indians from 1990 to 2000 was 105.87 per cent. The average growth rate for the whole of USA was only 7.6 per cent.Indians comprise 16.4 percent of the Asian-American community.

The U.S. states with the largest Indian American populations, in order, are California, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Illinois.

There are also large Indian American populations in Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and Ohio as well. The metropolitan areas with the largest Indian American populations are New York City, San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland, San Diego, C hicago, Los Angeles, Washington/Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta. The town of Edison, New Jersey (total population 100,499) is 17.5% Indian American – the highest percentage of any municipality in the United States.

Not only have they been successful in professional and economic realms, they are beginning to exert influence in the political world, investing money, time and talent. The Indian American community is rapidly emerging as a political force and also helping to promote a better understanding of the policies followed by the Government of India.

Several groups have tried to create a unified or dominant voice for the Indian American community in political affairs, including US India PAC. Additionally, there are also industry-wide Indian American groupings including the Asian American Hotel Owners Association and the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin. Indian Americans tend to be more liberal and tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Polls before the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election showed Indian Americans favoring Democratic candidate. Several Indian Americans have been voted to power in several states and municipalities. Congressman Dalip Singh Saund was the first among Asian Americans as also the first Indian American to be elected to the US Congress in 1958. Another milestone was achieved when in 2007 Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal became the first United States Governor of Indian descent when he was overwhelmingly elected Governor of Louisiana.

No doubt, Indian immigrants and their children are increasingly becoming power players across the United States and their influence in several areas of American life bear witness to this newly acquired strength and vitality. However, they need to move forward in building on their strengths and making themselves even more relevant to their native country and their, adopted homeland that is the United States of America.

BY RITU PANDEY
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