Indian Americans

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Indian Americans
Percent of population claiming Asian Indian ethnicity by state in 2010.svg
Percent of population with Indian ancestry in 2010
Total population
Regions with significant populations
51% Hindu
18% Christian
10% Muslim
10% No Religion
5% Sikh
2% Jain[5][6]

Indian Americans or Indo-Americans are Americans with ancestry from India. The United States Census Bureau uses the term Asian Indian to avoid confusion with Native Americans. With a population of almost four million, Indian Americans make up 1.2% of the U.S. population and are the largest group of South Asian Americans and the second largest group[7] of Asian Americans after Chinese Americans.

The New York metropolitan area comprises the largest population of Indian Americans among U.S. metropolitan areas.


Mindy Kaling American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and director.

In the Americas, the term "Indian" has historically been used for indigenous people since European colonization in the 15th century. Qualifying terms such as "American Indian" and "East Indian" were and still are commonly used in order to avoid ambiguity. The U.S. government has since coined the term "Native American" in reference to the indigenous people of the United States, but terms such as "American Indian" remain among indigenous as well as non-indigenous populations. Since the 1980s, Indian Americans have been categorized as "Asian Indian" (within the broader subgroup of Asian American) by the United States Census Bureau.[8]

While "East Indian" remains in use, the term "South Asian" is often chosen instead for academic and governmental purposes.[9] Indian Americans are included in the census grouping of "South Asian Americans", which includes Bangladeshi Americans, Bhutanese Americans, Nepalese Americans, Pakistani Americans, and Sri Lankan Americans.[10][11]


Pre 1800[edit]

Beginning in the 17th century, members of the East India Company would bring Indian servants to the American colonies.[12] There were also some East Indian slaves in the United States during the American colonial era.[13][14] The Naturalization Act of 1790 made Asians ineligible for citizenship.[15]

19th century[edit]

The first gurudwara was established in 1912 by the early immigrant Sikh farmers in Stockton, California.

The first significant wave of Indian immigrants entered the United States in the 19th century. By 1900, there were more than two thousand Indian Sikhs living in the United States, primarily in California.[16] (At least one scholar has set the level lower, finding a total of 716 Indian immigrants to the U.S. between 1820 and 1900.)[17] Emigration from India was driven by difficulties facing Indian farmers, including the challenges posed by the colonial land tenure system for small landowners, and by drought and food shortages, which worsened in the 1890s. At the same time, Canadian steamship companies, acting on behalf of Pacific coast employers, recruited Sikh farmers with economic opportunities in British Columbia.[18]

The presence of Indian Americans also helped develop interest in Eastern religions in the US and would result in its influence on American philosophies such as Transcendentalism. Swami Vivekananda arriving in Chicago at the World's Fair led to the establishment of the Vedanta Society.[17]

20th century[edit]

Escaping racist attacks in Canada, Sikhs migrated to Pacific Coast U.S. states in the 1900s to work on the lumber mills of Bellingham and Everett, Washington. Sikh workers were later concentrated on the railroads and began migrating to California; around 2,000 Indians were employed by the major rail lines such as Southern Pacific Railroad and Western Pacific Railroad between 1907 and 1908.[19] Some white Americans, resentful of economic competition and the arrival of people from different cultures, responded to Sikh immigration with racism and violent attacks.[20] The Bellingham riots in Bellingham, Washington on September 5, 1907, epitomized the low tolerance in the U.S. for Indians and Sikhs, who were called "hindoos" by locals. While anti-Asian racism was embedded in U.S. politics and culture in the early 20th century, Indians were also racialized for their anticolonialism, with U.S. officials pushing for Western imperial expansion abroad casting them as a "Hindu" menace. Although labeled Hindu, the majority of Indians were Sikh.[21]

In the early 20th century, a range of state and federal laws restricted Indian immigration and the rights of Indian immigrants in the U.S. Throughout the 1910s, American nativist organizations campaigned to end immigration from India, culminating in the passage of the Barred Zone Act in 1917.[20] In 1913, the Alien Land Act of California prevented non-citizens from owning land.[22] However, Asian immigrants got around the system by having Anglo friends or their own U.S. born children legally own the land that they worked on. In some states, anti-miscegenation laws made it illegal for Indian men to marry white women. However, it was legal for "brown" races to mix. Many Indian men, especially Punjabi men, married Hispanic women, and Punjabi-Mexican marriages became a norm in the West.[23][24]

Mohini Bhardwaj, 2004 Summer Olympics medalist in gymnastics

Bhicaji Balsara became the first known Indian to gain naturalized U.S. citizenship. As a Parsi, he was considered a "pure member of the Persian sect" and therefore a "free white person". In 1910, judge Emile Henry Lacombe of the Southern District of New York gave Balsara citizenship on the hope that the United States attorney would indeed challenge his decision and appeal it to create "an authoritative interpretation" of the law. The U.S. attorney adhered to Lacombe's wishes and took the matter to the Circuit Court of Appeals in 1910. The Circuit Court of Appeal agreed that Parsis are classified as white.[25] On the same grounds, another federal court decision granted citizenship to A. K. Mozumdar.[26] These decisions contrasted with the 1907 declaration by U.S. Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte: "...under no construction of the law can natives of British India be regarded as white persons."[26] After the Immigration Act of 1917, Indian immigration into the U.S. decreased. Illegal entry through the Mexican border became the way of entering the country for Punjabi immigrants. California's Imperial Valley had a large population of Punjabis who assisted these immigrants and provided support. Immigrants were able to blend in with this relatively homogenous population. The Ghadar Party, a group in California that campaigned for Indian independence, facilitated illegal crossing of the Mexican border, using funds from this migration "as a means to bolster the party's finances".[27] The Ghadar Party charged different prices for entering the US depending on whether Punjabi immigrants were willing to shave off their beard and cut their hair. It is estimated that between 1920 and 1935, about 1,800 to 2,000 Indian immigrants entered the U.S. illegally.[27]

By 1920, the population of Americans of Indian descent was approximately 6,400.[28] In 1923, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind that Indians were ineligible for citizenship because they were not "free white persons".[29] The court argued that the "great body of our people" would reject Indians.[30] Furthermore, the court ruled that based on popular understanding of race, the term "white person" referred to people of northern or western European ancestry rather than "Caucasians" in the most technical sense.[31] Over fifty Indians had their citizenship revoked after this decision, but Sakharam Ganesh Pandit fought against denaturalization. He was a lawyer and married to a white American, and he regained his citizenship in 1927. However, no other naturalization was permitted after the ruling, which led to about 3,000 Indians leaving the United States between 1920 and 1940. Many other Indians had no means of returning to India.[29]

Indians started moving up the social ladder by getting higher education. In 1910, Dhan Gopal Mukerji came to UC Berkeley when he was 20 years old. He was an author of many children's books and won the Newbery Medal in 1928 for his book Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon. However, he committed suicide at the age of 46 while he was suffering from depression. Another student, Yellapragada Subbarow, came to the U.S. in 1922. He became a biochemist at Harvard University, and he "discovered the function of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as an energy source in cells, and developed methotrexate for the treatment of cancer." However, being a foreigner, he was refused tenure at Harvard. Gobind Behari Lal, who came to the University of California, Berkeley in 1912, became the science editor of the San Francisco Examiner and was the first Indian American to win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism.[32]

After World War II, U.S. policy re-opened the door to Indian immigration, although slowly at first. The Luce–Celler Act of 1946 permitted a quota of 100 Indians per year to immigrate to the U.S. It also allowed Indian immigrants to naturalize and become citizens of the U.S., effectively reversing the Supreme Court's 1923 ruling in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind.[33] The Naturalization Act of 1952, also known as the McCarran-Walter Act, repealed the Barred Zone Act of 1917, but limited immigration from the former Barred Zone to a total of 2,000 per year. In 1910, 95% of all Indian Americans lived on the western coast of the United States. In 1920, that proportion decreased to 75%; by 1940, it was 65%, as more Indian Americans moved to the east coast. In that year, Indian Americans were registered residents in 43 states. The majority of Indian Americans on the west coast were in rural areas, but on the east coast they became residents of urban areas. In the 1940s, the prices of the land increased, and the Bracero program brought thousands of Mexican guest workers to work on farms, which helped shift second-generation Indian American farmers into "commercial, nonagricultural occupations, from running small shops and grocery stores, to operating taxi services and becoming engineers." In Stockton and Sacramento, a new group of Indian immigrants from the state of Gujarat opened several small hotels.[34] In 1955, 14 of 21 hotels enterprises in San Francisco were operated by Gujarati Hindus.[35] By the 1980s, Indians owned around 15,000 motels, about 28 percent of all hotels and motels in the U.S.[36]

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 dramatically opened entry to the U.S. to immigrants other than traditional Northern European groups, which would significantly alter the demographic mix in the U.S.[37] Not all Indian Americans came directly from India; some came to the U.S. via Indian communities in other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, the former British colonies of East Africa,[38] (namely Kenya, Tanzania), and Uganda, Mauritius), the Asia-Pacific region (Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Fiji),[38] and the Caribbean (Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Jamaica).[38] From 1965 until the mid-1990s, long-term immigration from India averaged about 40,000 people per year. From 1995 onward, the flow of Indian immigration increased significantly, reaching a high of about 90,000 immigrants in the year 2000.[39]

21st century[edit]

The beginning of the 21st century marked a huge significance in the migration trend from India to the United States. The implementation of privatization and liberalization had changed the entire outflow of migrants.[vague] The emergence of Information Technology industry in Indian cities as Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad led to the large number of migrations to the USA primarily from the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in South India. There are sizable populations of people from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the United States.[citation needed] Indians comprise over 80% of all H-1B visas.[citation needed] Indian Americans have risen to become the richest ethnicity in America, with an average household income of $126,891, almost twice the US average of $65,316.[citation needed]

In the last twenty years, a large number of students have started migrating to the United States to pursue higher education. A variety of estimates state that over 500,000 Indian American students attend higher-education institutions in any given year.[40][41] As per Institute of International Education (IIE) 'Opendoors' report, 202,014 new students from India enrolled in US education institutions.[42]

On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris, an Indian American, made history as the first female Vice President of the United States.[43] She was elected Vice President as the running mate of President Joe Biden in the presidential election the previous November. This was a major milestone in Indian American history, and in addition to Harris, another 20 Indian Americans were nominated to key positions in the administration.[44]


India Square, in the heart of Bombay, Jersey City, New Jersey, US, home to the highest concentration of Asian Indians in the Western Hemisphere,[45] is one of at least 24 Indian American enclaves characterized as a Little India which have emerged within the New York City Metropolitan Area, with the largest metropolitan Indian population outside Asia, as large-scale immigration from India continues into New York.[46][47][48]
Historical population

According to the 2010 United States Census,[52] the Asian Indian population in the United States grew from almost 1,678,765 in 2000 (0.6% of U.S. population) to 2,843,391 in 2010 (0.9% of U.S. population), a growth rate of 69.37%, one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States.[53]

The New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA Combined Statistical Area, consisting of New York City, Long Island, and adjacent areas within New York, as well as nearby areas within the states of New Jersey (extending to Trenton), Connecticut (extending to Bridgeport), and including Pike County, Pennsylvania, was home to an estimated 711,174 uniracial Indian Americans as of the 2017 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, comprising by far the largest Indian American population of any metropolitan area in the U.S.;[54] New York City itself also contains by far the highest Indian American population of any individual city in North America, estimated at 246,454 as of 2017.[55] Monroe Township, Middlesex County, in central New Jersey, the geographic heart of the Northeast megalopolis, has displayed one of the fastest growth rates of its Indian population in the Western Hemisphere, increasing from 256 (0.9%) as of the 2000 Census[56] to an estimated 5,943 (13.6%) as of 2017,[57] representing a 2,221.5% (a multiple of 23) numerical increase over that period, including many affluent professionals and senior citizens as well as charitable benefactors to the COVID-19 relief efforts in India in official coordination with Monroe Township, as well as Bollywood actors with second homes. In 2014, 12,350 Indians legally immigrated to the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA core based statistical area;[58] As of December 2019, Indian airline carrier Air India as well as United States airline carrier United Airlines were offering direct flights from the New York City Metropolitan Area to and from Delhi and Mumbai. In May 2019, Delta Air Lines announced non-stop flight service between New York JFK and Mumbai, to begin on December 22, 2019.[59] At least twenty Indian American enclaves characterized as a Little India have emerged in the New York City Metropolitan Area.[citation needed]

Other metropolitan areas with large Indian American populations include Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore–Washington, Boston, Chicago, Dallas–Ft. Worth, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Francisco–San Jose–Oakland, and Seattle.

The three oldest Indian American communities going back to around 1910 are in lesser populated agricultural areas like Stockton, California south of Sacramento; the Central Valley of California like Yuba City; and Imperial County, California aka Imperial Valley. These were all primarily Sikh settlements.

Census Bureau 2000, Asian Indians in the United States.png

U.S. metropolitan areas with large Asian Indian populations[edit]

Asian Indian population in Metropolitan Statistical Areas of the United States of America
Metropolitan Statistical Area Indian American
population (2010)[60]
Total population (2010) % of Total
Combined Statistical Area
New York–Newark–Jersey City, NY–NJ–PA 526,133 18,897,109 2.8% New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 171,901 9,461,105 1.8% Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI
Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD–WV 127,963 5,582,170 2.3% Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 119,901 12,828,837 0.9% Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
San Francisco–Oakland–Hayward, CA 119,854 4,335,391 2.8% San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 117,711 1,836,911 6.4% San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington, TX 100,386 6,371,773 1.6% Dallas–Fort Worth, TX-OK
Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land, TX 91,637 5,946,800 1.5% Houston-The Woodlands, TX
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 90,286 5,965,343 1.5% Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 78,980 5,268,860 1.5% Atlanta–Athens-Clarke County–Sandy Springs, GA
Boston–Cambridge–Newton, MA-NH 62,598 4,552,402 1.4% Boston–Worcester–Providence, MA-RI-NH-CT
Detroit–Warren–Livonia, MI 55,087 4,296,250 1.3% Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, MI
Seattle–Tacoma–Bellevue, WA 52,652 3,439,809 1.5% Seattle-Tacoma, WA
Miami–Fort Lauderdale–West Palm Beach, FL 41,334 5,564,635 0.7% Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, FL
Baltimore–Columbia–Towson, MD 32,193 2,710,489 1.2% Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA
Phoenix–Mesa–Glendale, AZ 31,203 4,192,887 0.7%
Minneapolis-St. Paul–Bloomington, MN-WI 29,453 3,279,833 0.9% Minneapolis-St. Paul MN-WI
Orlando–Kissimmee–Sanford, FL 26,105 2,134,411 1.2% Orlando–Deltona–Daytona Beach, FL
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 24,306 3,095,313 0.8% [49]
Riverside–San Bernardino–Ontario, CA 23,587 4,224,851 0.6% Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
Tampa–St. Petersburg–Clearwater, FL 23,526 2,783,243 0.8%
Austin-Round Rock, TX 23,503 1,716,289 1.4%
Raleigh, NC 20,192 1,130,490 1.8% Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
Columbus, OH 19,529 1,836,536 1.1% Columbus–Marion–Zanesville, OH
Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT 18,764 1,212,381 1.5% Hartford-East Hartford, CT
St. Louis, MO–IL 16,874 2,812,896 0.6% St. Louis–St. Charles–Farmington, MO–IL
Fresno, CA 15,469 930,450 1.7% Fresno–Madera, CA
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 15,439 916,829 1.7% New York–Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA
Trenton, NJ 15,352 366,513 4.2% New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA
Portland–Vancouver–Hillsboro, OR-WA 15,117 2,226,009 0.7% Portland–Vancouver–Salem, OR-WA
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 14,696 2,130,151 0.7% Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville, OH-KY-IN
Pittsburgh, PA 14,568 2,356,285 0.6% Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV
Cleveland–Elyria, OH 14,215 2,077,240 0.7% Cleveland-Akron-Canton, OH
Stockton, CA 12,951 685,306 1.9% San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
Denver–Aurora–Lakewood, CO 13,649 2,543,482 0.5% Denver–Aurora, CO
Richmond, VA 12,926 1,258,251 1.0%
Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 12,669 1,756,241 0.7% Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, IN
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI[61] 11,945 1,555,908 0.8% Milwaukee-Racine-Waukesha, CI
Kansas City, MO-KS 11,646 2,035,334 0.6% Kansas City-Overland Park-Kansas City, MO-KS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO 3,534 422,610 0.9% Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers Metropolitan Area

While the table above provides a picture of the population of Indian American (alone) and Asian Americans (alone) in some of the metropolitan areas of the US, it is incomplete as it does not include multi-racial Asian Americans. Please note that data for multi-racial Asian Americans has not yet been released by the US Census Bureau.

List of U.S. states by the population of Asian Indians[edit]

Asian-Indian population by states
State Asian Indian population
(2010 Census)[62]
% of state's population
(2010 Census)
Asian Indian population
(2000 Census)
% change
California 528,120 1.42% 314,819 46.6%
New York 313,620 1.62% 251,724 5.9%
New Jersey 292,256 3.32% 169,180 72.7%
Texas 245,981 0.98% 129,365 90.1%
Illinois 188,328 1.47% 124,723 51.0%
Florida 128,735 0.68% 70,740 82.0%
Virginia 103,916 1.30% 48,815 112.9%
Pennsylvania 103,026 0.81% 57,241 80.0%
Georgia 96,116 0.99% 46,132 108.3%
Maryland 79,051 1.37% 49,909 58.4%
Massachusetts 77,177 1.18% 43,801 76.2%
Michigan 77,132 0.78% 54,656 41.1%
Ohio 64,187 0.56% 38,752 65.6%
Washington 61,124 0.91% 23,992 154.8%
North Carolina 57,400 0.60% 26,197 119.1%
Connecticut 46,415 1.30% 23,662 96.2%
Arizona 36,047 0.56% 14,741 144.5%
Minnesota 33,031 0.52% 16,887 95.6%
Indiana 27,598 0.43% 14,865 85.7%
Tennessee 23,900 0.38% 12,835 86.2%
Missouri 23,223 0.39% 12,169 90.8%
Wisconsin 22,899 0.40% 12,665 80.85%
Colorado 20,369 0.41% 11,720 73.8%
Oregon 16,740 0.44% 9,575 74.8%
South Carolina 15,941 0.34% 8,856 80.0%
Kansas 13,852 0.49% 8,153 69.9%
Alabama 13,036 0.27% 6,900 88.9%
Kentucky 12,501 0.29% 6,771 84.6%
Oklahoma 11,906 0.32% 8,502 40.0%
Nevada 11,671 0.43% 5,535 110.9%
Delaware 11,424 1.27% 5,280 116.4%
Louisiana 11,174 0.25% 8,280 35.0%
Iowa 11,081 0.36% 5,641 96.4%
New Hampshire 8,268 0.63% 3,873 113.5%
Arkansas 7,973 0.27% 3,104 156.9%
Utah 6,212 0.22% 3,065 102.7%
Nebraska 5,903 0.32% 3,273 80.4%
Mississippi 5,494 0.19% 3,827 43.6%
Washington, D.C. 5,214 0.87% 2,845 83.3%
Rhode Island 4,653 0.44% 2,942 58.2%
New Mexico 4,550 0.22% 3,104 46.6%
Puerto Rico 3,523 0.09% 4,789 −26.4%
West Virginia 3,304 0.18% 2,856 15.7%
Hawaii 2,201 0.16% 1,441 52.7%
Idaho 2,152 0.14% 1,289 67.0%
Maine 1,959 0.15% 1,021 91.9%
North Dakota 1,543 0.23% 822 87.7%
Vermont 1,359 0.22% 858 58.4%
Alaska 1,218 0.17% 723 68.5%
South Dakota 1,152 0.14% 611 88.5%
Montana 618 0.06% 379 63.1%
Wyoming 589 0.10% 354 66.4%
Total Asian-Indian population in US 2,843,391 0.92% 1,678,765 69.4%

List of communities by number of Asian Indians (as of the 2010 census):

New York City - 192,209

San Jose, CA - 43,827

Fremont, CA - 38,711

Los Angeles, CA - 32,966

Chicago, IL - 29,948

Jersey City, NJ - 27,111

Houston, TX - 26,289

Sunnyvale, CA - 21,737

Philadelphia, PA - 18,520

Irving, TX - 17,403


The United States is host to the second largest Indian diaspora on the planet

In 2006, of the 1,266,264 legal immigrants to the United States, 58,072 were from India. Between 2000 and 2006, 421,006 Indian immigrants were admitted to the U.S., up from 352,278 during the 1990–1999 period.[63] According to the 2000 U.S. census, the overall growth rate for Indians from 1990 to 2000 was 105.87 percent. The average growth rate for the U.S. was 7.6 percent. Indians comprise 16.4 percent of the Asian-American community. In 2000, the Indian-born population in the U.S. was 1.007 million. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 1990 and 2000, the Indian population in the U.S. grew 130% – 10 times the national average of 13%. Indian Americans are the third largest Asian American ethnic group, following Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans.[64][65][66]

A joint Duke University – UC Berkeley study revealed that Indian immigrants have founded more engineering and technology companies from 1995 to 2005 than immigrants from the UK, China, Taiwan and Japan combined.[67] The percentage of Silicon Valley startups founded by Indian immigrants has increased from 7% in 1999 to 15.5% in 2006, as reported in the 1999 study by AnnaLee Saxenian[68] and her updated work in 2006 in collaboration with Vivek Wadhawa.[69] Indian Americans are making their way to the top positions of many major companies (including IBM, PepsiCo, MasterCard, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, Adobe, Softbank, Cognizant, Sun microsystems) A recent study shows that 23% of Indian business school graduates take a job in United States.[70]

Year Asian Indians (per ACS)
2005 2,319,222
2006 2,482,141
2007 2,570,166
2008 2,495,998
2009 2,602,676
2010 2,765,155
2011 2,908,204
2012 3,049,201
2013 3,189,485
2014 3,491,052
2015 3,510,000
2016 3,613,407
2017 3,794,539
2018 3,882,526
2019 4,002,151
2020 4,021,134

Socioeconomic status[edit]

Indian Americans continuously outpace every other ethnic group socioeconomically per U.S. Census statistics.[71] Thomas Friedman, in his 2005 book The World Is Flat, explains this trend in terms of brain drain, whereby a sample of the best and brightest elements in India emigrate to the US in order to seek better financial opportunities.[72] Indians form the second largest group of physicians after non-Hispanic whites (3.9%) as of the 1990 survey, and the percentage of Indian physicians rose to around 6% in 2005.[73]


According to Pew Research in 2015, of Indian Americans aged 25 and older, 72% had obtained a bachelor's degree and 40% had obtained a postgraduate degree, whereas of all Americans, 19% had obtained a bachelor's degree and 11% had obtained a postgraduate degree.[74]

Household income[edit]

The median household income for Indian immigrants in 2019 was much higher than that of the overall foreign- and native-born populations. Indians overall have much higher incomes than the total foreign and native-born populations. In 2019, households headed by an Indian immigrant had a median income of $132,000, compared to $64,000 and $66,000 for all immigrant and U.S.-born households, respectively.

In 2019, Indian immigrants were less likely to be in poverty (5 percent) than immigrants overall (14 percent) or the U.S. born (12 percent).[75]



Sheetal Sheth Publicity Still 5.jpg
Raja Kumari 2019 by Glenn Francis.jpg
Raja Kumari is an American singer

Telugu, Marathi, Punjabi, Malayalam and Hindi radio stations are available in areas with high Indian populations, for example, Punjabi Radio USA, in the New York City metropolitan area, KLOK 1170 AM in San Francisco, RBC Radio; Radio Humsafar, Desi Junction in Chicago; Radio Salaam Namaste and FunAsia Radio in Dallas; and Masala Radio, FunAsia Radio, Sangeet Radio, Radio Naya Andaz in Houston and Washington Bangla Radio on Internet from the Washington DC Metro Area. There are also some radio stations broadcasting in Tamil within these communities.[76][77] Houston-based Kannada Kaaranji radio focuses on a multitude of programs for children and adults.[78]

AVS (Asian Variety Show) and Namaste America are South Asian programming available in most of the US that is free to air and can be watched with a television antenna.

Several cable and satellite television providers offer Indian channels: Sony TV, Zee TV, TV Asia, Star Plus, Sahara One, Colors, Sun Tv, ETV, Big Magic, regional channels, and others have offered Indian content for subscription, such as the Cricket World Cup. There is also an American cricket channel called Willow.

Many metropolitan areas with large Indian American populations now have movie theaters which specialize in showing Indian movies, especially from Tollywood (Telugu), Kollywood (Tamil) and Bollywood (Hindi).

In July 2005, MTV premiered a spin-off network called MTV Desi which targets Indian Americans.[79] It has been discontinued by MTV.

In 2012, the film Not a Feather, but a Dot directed by Teju Prasad, was released which investigates the history, perceptions and changes in the Indian American community over the last century.

In popular media, several Indian American personalities have made their mark in recent years, including Kovid Gupta, Kal Penn, Hari Kondabolu, Karan Brar, Aziz Ansari, Hasan Minhaj, and Mindy Kaling.


Religious Makeup of Indian Americans (2014)[80]

  Hinduism (51%)
  Christianity (18%)
  Islam (10%)
  Unaffiliated (10%)
  Sikhism (5%)
  Jainism (2%)

Communities of Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and Indian Jews have established their religions in the United States. According to 2014 Pew Research Center research, 51% consider themselves Hindu, 18% as Christian (Protestant 11%, Catholic 5%, other Christian 3%), 9% as unaffiliated, 10% as Muslims, 5% as Sikh, 2% as Jain.[6] The first religious center of an Indian religion to be established in the US was a Sikh Gurudwara in Stockton, California in 1912. Today there are many Sikh Gurudwaras, Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, Christian churches, and Buddhist and Jain temples in all 50 states.


Nikki Haley and other Indian Americans participated in the Diwali celebrations at the White House, 2017

As of 2008, the American Hindu population was around 2.2 million.[82] Hindus form the majority religious group amongst the Indian American community.[83][84] Many organizations such as ISKCON, Swaminarayan Sampraday, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, Chinmaya Mission, and Swadhyay Pariwar are well-established in the U.S. and Hindu Americans have formed the Hindu American Foundation which represents American Hindus and aim to educate people about Hinduism. Swami Vivekananda brought Hinduism to the West at the 1893 Parliament of the World's Religions.[85] The Vedanta Society has been important in subsequent Parliaments. In September 2021, the State of New Jersey aligned with the World Hindu Council to declare October as Hindu Heritage Month. Today, many Hindu temples, most of them built by Indian Americans, have emerged in different cities and towns in the United States.[86][87] More than 18 million Americans are now practicing some form of Yoga. Kriya Yoga was introduced to America by Paramahansa Yogananda. A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada initiated the popular ISKCON, also known as the Hare Krishna movement, while preaching Bhakti yoga.


From the time of their arrival in the late 1800s, Sikh men and women have been making notable contributions to American society. In 2007, there were estimated to be between 250,000 and 500,000 Sikhs living in the United States, with largest populations living on the East and West Coasts, together with additional populations in Detroit, Chicago, and Austin. The United States also has a number of non-Punjabi converts to Sikhism. Sikh men are typically identifiable by their unshorn beards and turbans (head coverings), articles of their faith. Many organisations like World Sikh Organisation (WSO), Sikh Riders of America, SikhNet, Sikh Coalition, SALDEF, United Sikhs, National Sikh Campaign continue to educate people about Sikhism. There are many "Gurudwaras" Sikh temples present in all states of USA.


Adherents of Jainism first arrived in the United States in the 20th century. The most significant time of Jain immigration was in the early 1970s. The US has since become a center of the Jain diaspora. The Federation of Jain Associations in North America is an umbrella organization of local American and Canadian Jain congregations.[88] Unlike India and United Kingdom, the Jain community in United States doesn't find sectarian differences, Both Digambara and Śvētāmbara share a common roof.


The South Asian Muslim population (Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi) is about 33% of the total Muslim population of the US, which includes approximately 400,000 Muslims of Indian origin living in the United States.[89] American Muslims of Indian origin are a vibrant community actively engaged in various social, political and economic activities taking place all over the country.[90]

Hasan Minhaj, Farid Zakaria, Aziz Ansari,[91] Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan[92] are few well known Indian American Muslims. Indian Muslim Americans also congregate with other American Muslims, including those from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Myanmar when there are events particularly related to their faith and religious believes as the same can be applied for any other religious community, but there are prominent organizations such as the Indian Muslim Council – USA.[93]


There are many Indian Christian churches across the US; India Pentecostal Church of God, Assemblies of God in India, Church of God (Full Gospel) in India, Church of South India, Church of North India, Christhava Tamil Koil, The Pentecostal Mission, Sharon Pentecostal Church, Independent Non Denominational Churches like Heavenly Feast, Plymouth Brethren. Saint Thomas Syrian Christians (Syro Malabar Church, Syro Malankara Church, Chaldean Syrian Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church, Mar Thoma Syrian Church and Syrian Anglican Church) from Kerala have established their own places of worship across the United States.[94] The website has collected a comprehensive list of all the traditional St. Thomas Christian Churches in the US.[95] There are also Catholic Indians hailing originally from Goa, Karnataka and Kerala, who attend the same services as other American Catholics, but may celebrate the feast of Saint Francis Xavier as a special event of their identity.[96][97][98] The Indian Christian Americans have formed the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA) to represent a network of Indian Christian organizations in the US. FIACONA estimates the Indian American Christian population to be 1,050,000.[99]


The large Parsi and Irani community is represented by the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America.[100] Indian Jews are perhaps the smallest organized religious group among Indian Americans, consisting of approximately 350 members in the US. They form the Indian Jewish Congregation of USA, with their headquarters in New York City.[101]


Davuluri speaking, wearing her Miss America tiara, large earrings and a long necklace of red flowers
Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014 "first contestant of Indian descent to win the Miss America Competition"

Like the terms "Asian American" or "South Asian American", the term "Indian American" is also an umbrella label applying to a variety of views, values, lifestyles, and appearances. Although Asian-Indian Americans retain a high ethnic identity, they are known to assimilate into American culture while at the same time keeping the culture of their ancestors.[102]

Linguistic affiliation[edit]

Kiran Desai, winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize

The United States is home to various associations that promote Indian languages and cultures. Some major organizations include Telugu Association of North America (TANA), American Telugu Association (ATA), Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America, Federation of Kerala Associations in North America (FOKANA), Association of Kannada Kootas of America (AKKA), North American Bengali Conference, Orissa Society of the Americas, and Maharashtra Mandal.



Indra Nooyi, former chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo
Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of U.S.; former Vice Admiral of U.S. Health Corps


A man giving a speech. He wears a white blouse with a dark label pin. In front of him, there are two microphones.
Kal Penn speaking at a rally for President Barack Obama at the University of Maryland's Nyumburu Cultural Center.

According to the official U.S. racial categories employed by the United States Census Bureau, Office of Management and Budget and other U.S. government agencies, American citizens or resident aliens who marked "Asian Indian" as their ancestry or wrote in a term that was automatically classified as an Asian Indian became classified as part of the Asian race at the 2000 US Census.[120] As with other modern official U.S. government racial categories, the term "Asian" is in itself a broad and heterogeneous classification, encompassing all peoples with origins in the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.

In previous decades, Indian Americans were also variously classified as White American, the "Hindu race", and "other".[121] Even today, where individual Indian Americans do not racially self-identify, and instead report Muslim, Jewish, and Zoroastrian as their "race" in the "some other race" section without noting their country of origin, they are automatically tallied as white.[122] This may result in the counting of persons such as Indian Muslims, Indian Jews, and Indian Zoroastrians as white, if they solely report their religious heritage without their national origin.

Current issues[edit]


Sergeant Bhagat Singh Thind in U.S. Army uniform during World War I at Camp Lewis, Washington, in 1918. Thind, an American Sikh, was the first U.S. serviceman to be allowed for religious reasons to wear a turban as part of their military uniform.

In the 1980s, a gang known as the Dotbusters specifically targeted Indian Americans in Jersey City, New Jersey with violence and harassment.[123] Studies of racial discrimination, as well as stereotyping and scapegoating of Indian Americans have been conducted in recent years.[124] In particular, racial discrimination against Indian Americans in the workplace has been correlated with Indophobia due to the rise in outsourcing/offshoring, whereby Indian Americans are blamed for US companies offshoring white-collar labor to India.[125][126] According to the offices of the Congressional Caucus on India, many Indian Americans are severely concerned of a backlash, though nothing serious has taken place.[126] Due to various socio-cultural reasons, implicit racial discrimination against Indian Americans largely go unreported by the Indian American community.[124]

Numerous cases of religious stereotyping of American Hindus (mainly of Indian origin) have also been documented.[127]

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, there have been scattered incidents of Indian Americans becoming mistaken targets for hate crimes. In one example, a Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was murdered at a Phoenix gas station by a white supremacist. This happened after September 11, and the murderer claimed that his turban made him think that the victim was a Middle Eastern American.[citation needed] In another example, a pizza deliverer was mugged and beaten in Massachusetts for "being Muslim" though the victim pleaded with the assailants that he was in fact a Hindu.[128] In December 2012, an Indian American in New York City was pushed from behind onto the tracks at the 40th Street-Lowery Street station in Sunnyside and killed.[129] The police arrested a woman, Erika Menendez, who admitted to the act and justified it, stating that she shoved him onto the tracks because she believed he was "a Hindu or a Muslim" and she wanted to retaliate for the attacks of September 11, 2001.[130]

In 2004, New York Senator Hillary Clinton joked at a fundraising event with South Asians for Nancy Farmer that Mahatma Gandhi owned a gas station in downtown St. Louis, fueling the stereotype that gas stations are owned by Indians and other South Asians. She clarified in the speech later that she was just joking, but still received some criticism for the statement later on for which she apologized again.[131]

On April 5, 2006, the Hindu Mandir of Minnesota was vandalized allegedly on the basis of religious discrimination.[132] The vandals damaged temple property leading to $200,000 worth of damage.[133][134][135]

On August 11, 2006, Senator George Allen allegedly referred to an opponent's political staffer of Indian ancestry as "macaca" and commenting, "Welcome to America, to the real world of Virginia". Some members of the Indian American community saw Allen's comments, and the backlash that may have contributed to Allen losing his re-election bid, as demonstrative of the power of YouTube in the 21st century.[136]

In 2006, then Delaware Senator and current U.S President Joe Biden was caught on microphone saying: "In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."[137]

On August 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page shot eight people and killed six at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

On February 22, 2017, recent immigrants Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were shot at a bar in Olathe, Kansas by Adam Purinton, a white American who mistook them for persons of Middle Eastern descent, yelling "get out of my country" and "terrorist". Kuchibhotla died instantly while Madasani was injured, but later recovered.[138]

Punjabi Sikh Americans in Indianapolis suffered many losses in their community on April 15, 2021, during the Indianapolis FedEx shooting in which gunman Brandon Scott Hole, with a currently unknown motive, entered a FedEx warehouse and killed eight people, half of whom were Sikh. The Sikh victims were Jaswinder Singh, Jasvinder Kaur, Amarjit Sekhon, and Amarjeet Johal. Ninety percent of the workers at the facility were Sikh according to some accounts.[139] Another Sikh, Taptejdeep Singh, was one of the nine people killed in the San Jose shooting on May 26.[140]


Indians are among the largest ethnic groups legally immigrating to the United States. The immigration of Indians has taken place in several waves since the first Indian came to the United States in the 1700s. A major wave of immigration to California from the region of Punjab took place in the first decade of the 20th century. Another significant wave followed in the 1950s which mainly included students and professionals. The elimination of immigration quotas in 1965 spurred successively larger waves of immigrants in the late 1970s and early 1980s. With the technology boom of the 1990s, the largest influx of Indians arrived between 1995 and 2000. This latter group has also caused surge in the application for various immigration benefits including applications for green card. This has resulted in long waiting periods for people born in India from receiving these benefits.

As of 2012, over 330,000 Indians were on the visa wait list, third only to Mexico and The Philippines.[141]

In December, 2015, over 30 Indian students seeking admission in two US universities—Silicon Valley University and the Northwestern Polytechnic University—were denied entry by Customs and Border Protection and were deported to India. Conflicting reports suggested that the students were deported because of the controversies surrounding the above-mentioned two universities. However, another report suggested that the students were deported as they had provided conflicting information at the time of their arrival in US to what was mentioned in their visa application. "According to the US Government, the deported persons had presented information to the border patrol agent which was inconsistent with their visa status," read an advisory published by Ministry of External Affairs (India) which was published in the Hindustan Times.[142]

Following the incident, the Indian government asked the US government to honour the visas given by its embassies and consulates. In response, the United States embassy advised the students considering studying in the US to seek assistance from Education USA.[142][143]


Unlike many countries, India does not allow dual citizenship.[144] Consequently, many Indian citizens residing in U.S., who do not want to lose their Indian nationality, do not apply for American citizenship (ex. Raghuram Rajan[145]). However, many Indian Americans obtain Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status, which allows them to live and work in India indefinitely.

Income disparities[edit]

Although Indian Americans have the highest average and median household income of any demographic group in America, there exist significant and severe income disparities among various communities of Indian Americans. In Long Island, the average family income of Indian Americans was roughly $273,000, while in Fresno, the average family income of Indian Americans was only $24,000, an eleven-fold difference.[146]

Illegal immigration[edit]

In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security estimated that there were 200,000 Indian unauthorized immigrants; they are the sixth largest nationality (tied with Koreans) of illegal immigrants behind Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Philippines.[147] Indian Americans have had an increase in illegal immigration of 25% since 2000.[148][149] In 2014, Pew Research Center estimated that there are 450,000 undocumented Indians in the United States.[150]



Several groups have tried to create a voice for the community in political affairs, including the United States India Political Action Committee and the Indian American Leadership Initiative, as well as panethnic groups such as South Asian Americans Leading Together and Desis Rising Up and Moving.[151][152][153][154] Additionally, there are industry groups such as the Asian American Hotel Owners Association and the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin.

A majority tend to identify as moderates and have voted for Democrats in recent elections, in particular supporting Barack Obama in vast numbers.[155] Polls before the 2004 presidential election showed Indian Americans favoring Democratic candidate John Kerry over Republican George W. Bush by a 53% to 14% margin, with 30% undecided at the time.[156] The Republican party has tried to target this community for political support,[157] and in 2007, Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal became the first United States Governor of Indian descent when he was elected Governor of Louisiana.[158] Nikki Haley, also of Indian descent and a fellow Republican, became Governor of South Carolina in 2010. Republican Neel Kashkari is also of Indian descent and ran for Governor of California in 2014. Raja Krishnamoorthi who is a lawyer, engineer and community leader from Schaumburg, Illinois has been the Congressman representing Illinois's 8th congressional district since 2017.[159] Jenifer Rajkumar is a Lower Manhattan district leader and 2020 candidate for the New York State Assembly. If elected, she will be the first Indian American woman elected to the state legislature in New York history.[160] In 2016, Kamala Harris (the daughter of a Tamil Indian American mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris, and an Afro-Jamaican American father, Donald Harris[161][162][163]) became the first Indian American[164] and second African American female to serve in the United States Senate.[165] In 2020, she briefly ran for President of the United States and was later chosen as the Democratic Party's Vice-Presidential nominee, running alongside Joe Biden.[166] Indian Americans have played a significant role in promoting better India–United States relations, turning the cold attitude of American legislators to a positive perception of India in the post-Cold War era.[167]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Atkinson, David C. The burden of white supremacy: Containing Asian migration in the British empire and the United States (U North Carolina Press, 2016).
  • Bacon, Jean. Life Lines: Community, Family, and Assimilation among Asian Indian Immigrants (Oxford UP, 1996).
  • Bhalla, Vibha. "'Couch potatoes and super-women' Gender, migration, and the emerging discourse on housework among Asian Indian immigrants." Journal of American Ethnic History 27.4 (2008): 71–99. online Archived April 11, 2020, at the Wayback Machine
  • Chakravorty, Sanjoy; Kapur, Devesh; Singh, Nirvikar (2017). The Other One Percent: Indians in America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190648749.
  • Joshi, Khyati Y. New Roots in America's Sacred Ground: Religion, Race and Ethnicity in Indian America (Rutgers UP, 2006).
  • Khandelwal, Madhulika S. Becoming American, Being Indian: An Immigrant Community in New York City (Cornell UP, 2002).
  • Maira, Sunaina Marr. Desis in the House: Indian American Youth Culture in NYC (Temple UP, 2002).
  • Min, Pyong Gap, and Young Oak Kim. "Ethnic and sub-ethnic attachments among Chinese, Korean, and Indian immigrants in New York City." Ethnic and Racial Studies 32.5 (2009): 758–780.
  • Pavri, Tinaz. "Asian Indian Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2014), pp. 165–178. online Archived March 26, 2021, at the Wayback Machine
  • Rangaswamy, Padma (2000). Namasté America: Indian Immigrants in an American Metropolis. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-01981-6.
  • Rudrappa, Sharmila. Ethnic Routes to Becoming American: Indian Immigrants and the Cultures of Citizenship (Rutgers UP, 2004).
  • Schlund-Vials, Cathy J., Linda Trinh Võ, and K. Scott Wong, eds. Keywords for Asian American Studies (NYU Press, 2015).
  • Shukla, Sandhya. India Abroad: Diasporic Cultures of Postwar America and England (Princeton UP, 2003).
  • Sohi, Seema. Echoes of Mutiny: Race, Surveillance, and Indian Anticolonialism in North America (2014) excerpt Archived February 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  • Takaki, Ronald (1998) [1989]. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans (Revised and updated ed.). New York: Back Bay Books. ISBN 978-0-316-83130-7. OCLC 80125499.
  • Thernstrom, Stephan; Orlov, Ann; Handlin, Oscar, eds. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674375122, (1980), pp 296–301. available to borrow online

External links[edit]