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What makes Indian Americans different?

The new series on Netflix— “Indian Matchmaking” made it to the top 10 US list. A few weeks ago, another series  called Never Have I Ever  with an Indian American protagonist also cut to the top ten. As an Indian American living in the US for the past twenty years, I am happy, and I started to think of the journey of Indian immigrants.

Today, Indians are the richest immigrant minority in the US. The median household income of Indians in the US is close to $140,000 (2016) compared to the next class (whites) whose median income rests at $85,000. This data is from 2016, and today the numbers would be much higher for the Indian household income. This voyage was onerous and full of obstacles. Indian immigration to the US has been arduous to say the least. 

The early Indians came to America to work on the railroad project. They were ill-treated to the extent that they could not board the rails they helped build to go home. Even if they had lived on the American soil for decades, they were ineligible for citizenship because of the Naturalization Act of 1790. When immigrants were pouring in from European countries in the 1900s, the Immigration Act of 1917 downright prevented Indians from emigrating. It was only in 1965 when amendments were made to the Immigration and Naturalization Act that Indians started to enter the US in very infinitesimal numbers. One thing that makes Indian immigration unique to the US is that 75% of Indian immigrants are educated (bachelors/masters degree) and are considered highly skilled labour. Education is what defines Indian immigrants.

Education is important to Indians. Even in low-income housing of Indian towns, every single person recognizes the value and urgency of education; this is aggrandized in Indians in the US. Most after school academic enrichment centers have a very high percentage of Indian origin children. Indian children dominate the Spelling Bees and Maths Olympiad because households attribute a climb in academic growth to such competitions. If a school district in the US participates in the gifted program (learning a couple of grades ahead), Indian children make up for the majority of participants. It’s not that Indian immigrants are only focused in academics, they basically invest in their children. Music, sports, or other extracurriculars— an average Indian household will give precedence to their children’s growth. But if the funds are limited, the priority will be given to academics, and the result shows- an average household income of Indian Americans is much higher than any race in the US.

Also, most Indian families are very involved in their child’s growth. It’s not limited to monetary involvement; the parents are actively involved in the daily activities. For an outsider to the culture, it could look like mollycoddling; maybe it is. The sense of duty in parents towards their children is very high. If a household can afford to pay for the college education of their child, it is almost given that the parents would gladly pay for college. 

Very few Indian Americans live below the poverty line, and even fewer are part of any gangs. Most Indian Americans immigrate to the US legally, and their choice in clothing is seldom an indication of their deep pockets.

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