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Indian Americans: Small community, outsized contributions

BY VEENA RAO

Washington, D.C.,  June 19, 2024: The Indian American community, despite representing just 1.5% of the U.S. population, contributes 6% of taxes, and has made significant contributions across various sectors, according to a recent report by Indiaspora, conducted in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group. The “Indiaspora Impact Report: Small Community, Big Contributions” highlights the big influence of Indian Americans on the U.S. economy, culture, science, and public service.

“Indian Americans account for only 1.5% of the U.S. population, yet they continue to have an outsized and positive impact across different aspects of society,” said Indiaspora Founder M.R. Rangaswami. “Indian American-driven innovation flows to the country’s bottom line and is laying the groundwork for the next phase of economic growth.”

The Indian American diaspora includes 2.8 million first-generation immigrants (including students) and 2.3 million who claim Indian ancestry. Around 70% of Indian Americans are citizens, and 60% are between 18-64 years of age.

Economic Contributions

Indian Americans are a powerhouse in the corporate world, with 16 Fortune 500 companies currently led by CEOs of Indian origin, collectively generating 5% of total revenue, or approximately $978 billion. Additionally, Indian businesses have invested over $40 billion in the U.S. since 2008, creating jobs and fostering innovation. This community contributes 6% of all U.S. taxes.

CEOs of Indian origin include Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Reshma Kewalramani of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. These leaders collectively employ 2.7 million Americans and generate nearly $1 trillion in revenue. Along with leading major corporations, the economic impact of Indian Americans goes beyond big business. They have a significant presence in the startup world, co-founding 72 out of 648 U.S. unicorns operating in 2024. These companies, like Cambridge Mobile Telematics and Solugen, employ over 55,000 people and are valued at $195 billion. The entrepreneurial spirit extends to small businesses across the country. Indian Americans own about 60% of all U.S. hotels, a testament to their profound impact on the hospitality industry.

Science and Innovation

Indian Americans are highly represented in science and technology sectors, contributing to over 10% of NIH grants and U.S. patents. The community boasts a large presence in academia, with 23,000 full-time professors mentoring future leaders.

About one-third of tech employees in Silicon Valley are of Indian origin.

Cultural Influence

Indian culture has increasingly become a part of American life, with festivals like Diwali and Holi gaining popularity. Indian cuisine’s presence is marked by 3% of Michelin Guide USA restaurants featuring Indian food. The entertainment industry has also seen a rise in Indian influence, with numerous films grossing significant amounts and Indian-origin artists winning prestigious awards like the Oscars, Golden Globes, and Grammys​​.

Bollywood’s influence continues to grow with stars like Priyanka Chopra Jonas making successful transitions to Hollywood, and young talents like Mean Girls’ star Avantika Vandanapu are gaining fame.

In fashion, traditional elements such as henna, bindis, and lehengas are prevalent.

Writer, producer, and actor Mindy Kaling has created and starred in shows like “The Mindy Project” and “Never Have I Ever,” bringing Indian American narratives to mainstream television.

“Though spelling bee champions and CEOs may grab the limelight, as more Indians call America ‘home,’ their impact is reaching across US culture in ever more significant ways,” said Sesh Iyer, North America Regional Chair, BCG X. “From Indian traditions like Holi and Diwali, to the expanding popularity of Indian restaurants, yoga, and cricket in US culture, India continues to add new spice to America’s 250 years of cultural confluence”..

Public Service and Philanthropy

In the realm of public service, over 150 Indian Americans hold senior administration positions, accounting for 6.2% of such roles. Vice President Kamala Harris remains the highest-ranking Indian American in U.S. history. Philanthropically, the community has donated more than $3 billion to U.S. universities, with numerous significant contributions exceeding $1 million each​.

Tech billionaire Romesh Wadhwani, who signed the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Giving Pledge in 2012, says he’s committed to handing over 80% of his wealth to his Wadhwani Foundation out of an “obligation to give back.” The Foundation’s mission is to accelerate job growth and provide training for entrepreneurs to improve economic outlook in emerging economies.

Education and Healthcare

Indian Americans are among the most educated groups in the U.S., with 77% holding college degrees compared to 36% of the general population. They are also highly influential in healthcare, making up 10% of all U.S. physicians while serving around 30% of patients.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, the nation’s top public health official, has been a leading voice in addressing the opioid crisis and mental health issues in the U.S. Known for his compassionate approach, Dr. Murthy has emphasized the importance of emotional well-being and community support in fostering public health.

Challenges

However, this community is not without its share of challenges, the report says. Around 6% of Indian Americans are below the poverty line as of 2020, and an estimated 14% were undocumented in 2021. The community needs to be more proactive about tackling these issues head-on in the years and decades to come, the report adds.

As Indian Americans continue to integrate and influence various facets of American life, their contributions set a foundation for future advancements and cultural enrichment in the U.S.​

It is time to acknowledge the contributions of the Indian diaspora in the U.S., not merely in terms of numbers or economic statistics, but in the way they have woven their traditions, flavors, and passions into the very fabric of American life, the report says. “We celebrate these achievements today, but looking ahead, we call on the Indian-American community to use this influence for the continuous betterment of the societies we live in that sustain and enrich us.”

The steering committee of the impact report includes former US Ambassador to India, Ken Juster, and former Pepsico head, Indra Nooyi, among others.

For more detailed insights, the full report can be accessed on the Indiaspora website.

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