The Enduring Impact of the Indian Americans in the U.S.

By siliconindia   |   Thursday, 20 June 2024, 17:22 IST
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The Enduring Impact of the Indian Americans in the U.S.

Indian Americans have significantly impacted the US economy, raising the tax base, establishing major companies, co-founding 72 unicorns, and shaping the US cultural landscape through philanthropy.

Story of an Indian father who sacrificed a year's salary to send his son to Stanford for a master's degree in Material Science; the son later became the CEO of a global company. Another tale illustrates the endurance and determination of an astronaut who completed the longest spacewalk in history by a woman. In rural Pennsylvania, a doctor delivered over 8,000 babies and improved the healthcare ecosystem and the well-being of his community.

These narratives highlight the remarkable journeys of Indian-Americans who have inspired millions with their grit, talent, and ambition. Despite comprising only 1.5 percent of the U.S. population, Indian-Americans have significantly enriched the nation's economy, culture and society.

Impact of Indian-Americans

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study, Indiaspora Impact Report Summary: Small Community, Big Contributions, Boundless Horizons, presents a quantified catalog of the achievements of the Indian diaspora, accompanied by some of their most inspiring profiles. Representing a network of 5.1 million individuals, including 2.8 million first-generation immigrants, the diaspora bridges continents with its rich cultural heritage, which fosters innovation across industries and improves the communities in which they reside.

Indian Americans have succeeded within the U.S. but have also empowered countless others around them. Their contributions are pivotal in shaping a future of inclusive growth and mutual respect. The story of Indian-Americans is about motivated immigrants and their children seeking the American dream. It is a story of leaders and innovators, groundbreakers and trailblazers who have added vibrant threads to the tapestry of American society.

Demographics and Contributions

Indian Americans form a diverse community, reflecting India's varied geographies, ethnicities, cultures and global reach. While many studies focus on economic metrics like wealth and remittances, a holistic view encompassing contributions in the sciences, academia, philanthropy, culture, government, public service, and global policy provides a fuller picture.

The diaspora significantly enhances the economic competitiveness of various industries by bringing top talent. Indian American professionals, particularly in healthcare and technology, are addressing critical skill shortages in the U.S. workforce.

The diaspora's ability to navigate diverse cultural landscapes while serving as a bridge between communities is an inspiring model for global integration and unity. The economic impact of the Indian diaspora in the U.S. is substantial, from leading major enterprises and founding new companies to employing millions across all states. This financial influence reflects the determination of individuals who have overcome challenges to make meaningful contributions to their new home.

Economic Influence

Indian-American CEOs head 16 Fortune 500 companies, including Satya Nadella of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Reshma Kewalramani of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. These leaders collectively employ 2.7 million Americans and generate nearly $1 trillion in revenue. Beyond overseeing major corporations, Indian Americans have a significant presence in the startup ecosystem, co-founding 72 out of 648 U.S. unicorns operating in 2024. These companies, such as Cambridge Mobile Telematics and Solugen, employ over 55,000 people and are valued at $195 billion.

The Indian diaspora has made a substantial contribution to the U.S. tax base. Although they constitute only 1.5 percent of the population, they are estimated to pay about five to six percent of all income taxes, amounting to approximately $250-300 billion. Their professional activities indirectly create 11-12 million American jobs, underscoring their significant economic impact.

Scientific and Academic Contributions

The Indian diaspora has left an indelible mark in research, innovation, and academia. Between 1975 and 2019, the proportion of U.S. patents with Indian-origin innovators surged from around two percent to ten percent. In 2023, research groups led by scientists of Indian origin accounted for about 11 percent of all National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants and contributed to 13 percent of scientific publications.

Notable figures include Navin Varadarajan, a pioneer in immunotherapy advancing cancer treatment, and Subra Suresh, former director of the National Science Foundation, whose patents in biomedical devices have revolutionized global healthcare. Approximately 22,000 faculty members of Indian origin teach at U.S. colleges and universities, representing about 2.6 percent of all full-time faculty. Among them are distinguished leaders like Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, Penn State’s president, the first woman and person of color to hold that position, and Arun Majumdar, the inaugural Dean of Stanford’s Doerr School of Sustainability. Notably, 35 of the top 50 U.S. colleges have Indian Americans in leadership positions, serving as Deans, Chancellors and Provosts across various disciplines.

Contributions to Cultural Understanding

Indian Americans have also enriched the cultural landscape of the United States in numerous domains, including festivals, cuisine, wellness, film, music and fashion. Indian festivals like Diwali and Holi are now widely celebrated in the U.S. Diwali is recognized as an official state holiday in Pennsylvania and New York City.

In the culinary sphere, renowned chefs like Maneet Chauhan and Michelin-starred Vikas Khanna and Srijith Gopinathan have introduced Indian flavors to mainstream American dining. Roni Mazumdar’s successful New York City restaurants, including Adda, Dhamaka, and Semma, highlight authentic and innovative Indian dishes. Wellness practices of Indian origins, such as those promoted by Deepak Chopra, have become integral to American culture, with yoga and Ayurveda now being staples in wellness practices. Swami Vivekananda introduced yoga to America, and by 2023, about ten percent of Americans will practice it, fueled by roughly 36,000 yoga studios.

Bollywood's influence continues to grow, with stars like Priyanka Chopra Jonas achieving success in Hollywood and rising talents like Avantika Vandanapu gaining prominence. Traditional elements such as henna, bindis and lehengas are becoming mainstream in fashion, with lehengas available at high-end retailers like Nordstrom. Designers Falguni and Shane Peacock showcase their glamorous creations worn by celebrities at New York Fashion Week. Authors like Jhumpa Lahiri and Abraham Verghese have significantly contributed to exploring the Indian-American experience in their acclaimed works.

A Philanthropic Pursuit

The philanthropic efforts of the Indian diaspora demonstrate a commitment to giving back and making a difference in both the U.S. and India. With annual contributions estimated to exceed $1.5 billion, these efforts positively impact millions worldwide. Initiated by the India Philanthropic Alliance (IPA) in 2023, India Giving Day has seen continuous growth in donors and donations, providing a powerful avenue for Indian Americans to support causes in India.

Organizations within IPA, founded by members of the Indian diaspora, collectively raise more than $135 million annually, benefiting over 70 million people. Notably, the community often pursues a dual approach to philanthropy, supporting causes in India while also contributing to local communities in the U.S. This reflects their gratitude for the opportunities and support they have received in the U.S., motivating them to give back.

During crises such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Indian diaspora organizations raised over $2 million for disaster recovery, mobilized over 1,000 daily volunteers, managed a 24-hour helpline and rescued hundreds from floodwaters. Additionally, they played a crucial role in community rebuilding efforts post-disaster.

During the pandemic, Indian Americans provided significant humanitarian support in the U.S. and India. Gurudwaras across the U.S. actively participated in community support through free meal programs, embodying the Sikh principle of "Langar," which emphasizes equality and selfless service. These initiatives were essential in offering relief to pandemic-affected communities.

Public Service and Global Influence

The impact of the Indian diaspora extends to U.S. public service and government, where their involvement is substantial and growing. Indian Americans are prominent in political roles, from local governance to federal positions. Over the past decade, the number of Indian Americans in notable federal administration roles has increased from over 60 in 2013 to more than 150 by 2023. This includes Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman to hold the office, exemplifying how Indian Americans are becoming integral to American society and governance. Beyond the White House, politicians of Indian descent are making significant contributions on both sides of the political aisle.

The influence of the Indian diaspora extends far beyond the United States, reaching into global governance and policy. For instance, Indian experts at the World Bank are redefining developmental economics and shaping policy frameworks with worldwide impacts. Notably, Ajay Banga, the newly appointed President of the World Bank, brings fresh perspectives. Similarly, at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Gita Gopinath serves as the First Deputy Managing Director. During the pandemic, Gopinath was crucial in developing economic recovery strategies and spearheading vaccination efforts in low- and middle-income countries.

In the technology sector, Indian talent has been instrumental in driving innovation in Silicon Valley, where approximately one-third of tech employees are of Indian origin. This exchange is mutual, with U.S. companies heavily investing in India’s technology sector, leading to economic growth and job creation in both countries.

Influence on Education

Around 270,000 Indian students, comprising 25 percent of international students in the U.S., enhance American universities with their unique perspectives and academic prowess. Nearly 60 percent are enrolled in graduate studies, representing 1.5 percent of the total student population. The U.S. attracts some of the best of India's young, skilled, English-speaking talent pool.

The Indian diaspora’s ability to find belonging and kinship globally reflects their diverse and impactful influence in the U.S., from cultural contributions to societal advancements. The Indian diaspora's contributions to American life are celebrated, recognizing their economic impact and how they have enriched society with their traditions, flavors, and passions, with anticipation of their continued positive influence.