Groundbreaking New Book Explores the Rise of the Indian Community in the U.S.

In 1965, the U.S. Congress passed a landmark law known as the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The law served as an overhaul to existing immigration policy that had been in place since the 1920s, much of which relied on xenophobic concepts such as national origin quotas. The INA created the foundation for the visa preference system that is still in use today and focused on immigrant’s skills and family connections with U.S. citizens or residents as a basis for entry into the country. In addition to modernizing U.S. immigration law, the INA also had another unexpected ramification – it helped to create the most educated and highly paid immigrant demographic in modern U.S. history.

Since the 1990’s, those of Indian descent, whether Indian born or IndianAmerican, are far more likely to have an advanced degree and hold a high paying job than any other foreign born or first generation group in the United States. This means that while Indians in America number just over 2 million, or one percent, of the population, they contribute significantly to our overall economy and to several key industries such as the tech and medical fields. The extraordinary success of Indian immigrants and IndianAmericans is explored in a new book called The Other One Percent: Indians in America. Using data driven, comprehensive analysis of the Indian community in the U.S., the book chronicles the rise to prosperity of Indian immigrants and IndianAmericans throughout the last 50 years. [See A Model Minority: How Indians Triumphed in America, by staff writer, The Economist, 26.Nov.2016.]

The authors of The Other One Percent are Sanjoy Chakravorty, a professor of geography and urban studies at Temple University; Devesh Kapur, a professor of political science and director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania; and Nirvikar Singh, professor of economics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In a recent interview conducted via eMail with Inside Higher Ed, the authors outlined the varied and complex reasons the Indian demographic has enjoyed such a meteoric rise to success in the United States. All three of the book’s authors agree that “the most important effect of the [INA] was that it opened the door for Indians. Before that, a mix of openly racist laws and national origin quotas had severely limited the entry of Indians and other nonwhite racial groups. The 1965 act encouraged both family reunification and the entry of skilled workers.”

The authors also explained in the interview that unique geographical, political, and cultural factors in India helped contribute to the influx of Indian talent in the U.S. after 1965. “… First, India being a stable democracy meant that there were few refugees or asylum seekers from there … second, because of the distance, it is difficult for low-skilled workers to find illegal ways into the U.S. Once you eliminate these two paths, (refugee / asylee and illegal) and then incorporate the random shock of the information revolution that has attracted a large fraction of the Indian immigrant stream for the last two decades, the current outcome is not that surprising.” The authors also single out the Y2K crisis of 1999 as a turning point for the Indian immigrant community, as the situation created a necessity for skilled tech workers to resolve the computer glitch that had the potential for disastrous worldwide impact. Highly educated immigrants from India came to the United States to fill that void, and they have contributed significantly to the U.S. tech industry ever since. [See The Other One Percent (interview), by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 15.Dec.2016.]

The Other One Percent: Indians in America chronicles the multi-faceted ways that Indians and IndianAmericans have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity in the U.S. While every immigrant and first generation American has their own unique, personal experience of life in America, the Indian demographic in the U.S. also has an inspiring collective story – one of hard work, perseverance, and the achievement of the American dream.


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