A statistical snapshot of North American brown folk

I’m really excited by the releases of 2010 Census. We’ll finally get some really fine-grained data. For example, we know from the American Community Survey that the Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, and Nepali, communities have grown a great deal over the past 10 years. But I’m curious about more than these sample based estimates, I want fine-grained stuff which the decennial Census provides. We’ll know for example whether the endogamy rate for marriages where individuals are Indian Americans who were born or raised in the USA remains ~55%. That means in a little over half of the marriages between an ABD and someone else, that someone else was also an Indian American (whether foreign born and raised, or American born or raised). One model might be that with the growth in the community you’ll see the outmarriage rate drop. Some social science has seen this tendency among Asian Americans in general. I’m probably leaning in that direction myself (as a descriptive matter of the population wide movement. I am not personally part of that trend).

But before we get to the point where we get lots of 2010 data releases, I thought I’d “dump” a statistical snapshot of sorts of South Asians in North America. I wanted to include the UK and other communities of the Diaspora, but labor hours are finite. Feel free to offer links/data in the comments. The data below are from the US Census, the 2001 Census of Canada, and Pew’s Religious Landscape Survey. It is interesting that even across the two North American South Asian communities there are large differences. In particular it struck me how much more nationally diverse Canadian South Asians are, while the American South Asian community is numerically dominated by people whose national or family origin is in India.


USA
Census 2000
IndianPakistaniBangladeshiSri LankanAll USA
Absolute population16787651535334128020145281421906
% population0.60%0.05%0.01%0.01%100%
Median age3028293535
Average family size44433
College degree or higher (25 or older)64%54%49%51%24%
% foreign born74%77%83%78%11%
Does not speak English at home79%94%97%71%18%
Median family income (1999 dollars)$70,708$50,189$38,146$61,452$50,046
Per capita income$27,514$18,096$13,971$27,478$21,587
Indian Americans onlyCaliforniaNew YorkNew JerseyTexas
Absolute population314819251724169180129365
% population0.93%1.33%2.01%0.62%
Median age30313130
Average family size4443
College degree or higher (25 or older)63%47%67%65%
% foreign born73%76%77%74%
Does not speak English at home82%71%87%82%
Median family income (1999 dollars)$77,110$57,596$79,054$67,683
Per capita income$29,232$23,028$28,828$26,158
Pew Religious Landscape Survey
HindusAll USA
Region
Northeast29%19%
Midwest13%23%
South32%36%
West26%22%
Age
18-2918%20% 
30-4958%39% 
50-6419%25% 
65+5%16% 
Race
White (non-Hispanic)5%71%
Black (non-Hispanic)1%11%
Asian (non-Hispanic)88%3%
Other/Mixed (non-Hispanic)4%3%
Hispanic2%12%
Income
< $30 K9%31%
$30-$49,999 K10%22%
$50-$74,999 K15%17%
$75-$99,999 K22%13%
$100,000+ K43%18%
Marital status
Married79%54%
Living with partner0%6%
Divorced5%12%
Widowed2%8%
Never married14%19%
Children
No children52%65%
1 child21%13%
2 children24%13%
3 children2%6%
4+ children1%3%
Canada 2001 Census
South AsianAll Canada
Age
Under 1525%19%
15 to 2415%13%
25 to 4434%31%
45 to 6420%24%
65 and over6%12%
Marital status
Married61%50%
Educational attainment
Less than HS29%31%
HS Graduate13%14%
Some postsecondary13%11%
Trades certificate6%11%
College graduate10%15%
Bachelor’s degree16%11%
Post-graduate9%5%
Median income
15 to 24$9,633$10,182
25 to 44$28,588$33,308
45 to 64$32,349$37,026
65 and over$19,391$24,437
Origin of South Asian immigrants
India47%
Sri Lanka13%
Pakistan12%
Guyana5%
Bangladesh3%
Fiji3%
Tanzania2%
Kenya2%
Trinidad and Tobago2%
UK2%
Uganda1%
All other countries6%
First language of South Asians
Punjabi29%
English27%
Tamil10%
Urdu8%
Gujarati6%
Hindi6%
Bengali3%
Religion of South Asians
Sikh30%
Hindu28%
Muslim23%
Catholic8%
Other religion7%
No religion3%

29 thoughts on “A statistical snapshot of North American brown folk

  1. Anyone notice that the south indian immigrant is of a bigger percentage of the south asian group in the US compared to England? You see very few Telugus or Tamilians in the UK. Also, this is just pure speculation – but I think the South Asian immigrant in the US is more educated than a typical one in the UK. Though, I think the recent South Asian immigrants in the US are not as educated as the ones that preceded them. Maybe that’s just a result of a more mature immigrant group. The first wave settles down and starts to sponsor their relatives. Also recent developments in India make it less of an urgency for the brightest to leave India. Travel is a lot easier.

  2. Anyone notice that the south indian immigrant is of a bigger percentage of the south asian group in the US compared to England?

    yes. around half, or perhaps more, of the south asians in the UK, are ethnic punjabis or near-punjabis (i don’t know what pak mirpuris are technically). a substantial minority are east african indians, so mostly ethnic gujaratis. add the bangladeshis, and you don’t have that much left over for various other indian groups.

    but I think the South Asian immigrant in the US is more educated than a typical one in the UK

    this is complicated. the british asian communited is “chunked” much more starkly. the pakistanis are transitioning to a hybrid immigrant-native community. since they bring spouses from pakistan a lot, you have lots of DBDs, but there is a huge second and third generation contingent of british brown muslims in north england. but, yes, the pakistani immigrants are not as educated as indian americans. neither are the bangladeshis, who are still mostly an immigrant community. the indian british are in the middle i think. a lot of the east africans arrived in the 70s as refugees. they are often very industrious and educated, and indian british actually stack up as well or better than the white british communities on stuff like academics. though the difference is probably not as big as between indian americans and the general american population.

    Though, I think the recent South Asian immigrants in the US are not as educated as the ones that preceded them. Maybe that’s just a result of a more mature immigrant group. The first wave settles down and starts to sponsor their relatives. Also recent developments in India make it less of an urgency for the brightest to leave India. Travel is a lot easier.

    if you look at the data it is complex. there was a tendency of incredibly educated 60s and 70s migrants giving way to less educated waves in the 80s and 90s. but the huge swell of H1Bs in the late 90s and on have dampened that tendency, as many of them eventually got greencards and entered the professional world. but then there is the huge illegal immigrant community of indian americans which arose in the last 15 years ago. don’t know much about those.

  3. For someone who doesn’t seem to think much of this blog, you post here an awful lot ;) (not that I’m discouraging it in any way haha)

    Anyway, I’m surprised that 27% of South Asians claim English as a first language; most of the 1st, 2nd, and even 3rd Gen browns I know live in bi or tri-lingual houses. Just curious; do you know if people are allowed to put more than 1 language as a 1st language? For example we speak a mix of several languages amongst my family (English mostly, but some Dari/Urdu/Pashto) and I wouldn’t know what language to put as “first”. I can’t remember what I put in the 2010 census.

    How do you expect these figures to change in the next 5 years or so? I would guess a lot more South Indian immigrants, which seems to be the trend for the last couple years

    Living with partner 0%

    Hahahaha this is awesome!

  4. Anyway, I’m surprised that 27% of South Asians claim English as a first language; most of the 1st, 2nd, and even 3rd Gen browns I know live in bi or tri-lingual houses

    that’s canada fwiw. i think they have a relatively old sikh punjabi community in vancouver which has a lot of people who have been in canada for several generations.

    How do you expect these figures to change in the next 5 years or so? I would guess a lot more South Indian immigrants, which seems to be the trend for the last couple years

    i don’t know really. one thing is that the better the indian economy does, the weaker the “push.” one thing that people have found about chinese immigrants is that the ones who come here illegally today are often perceived to be “losers” who can’t hack it in china, where there are lots of opportunities.

  5. I’m not completely certain but I believe that the Hindus and in particular the Gujarati population in the UK are doing substantially better than the White British communities both academically and in terms of income(thousands of Gujarati business millionaires and the like in London). Punjabi Sikhs perform only slightly better than whites(though there is large variation) academically while still doing well financially due to strong families and traditional values..

  6. I’m not completely certain but I believe that the Hindus and in particular the Gujarati population in the UK are doing substantially better than the White British communities both academically and in terms of income(thousands of Gujarati business millionaires and the like in London). Punjabi Sikhs perform only slightly better than whites(though there is large variation) academically while still doing well financially due to strong families and traditional values

    close to true. i think “substantially” is overstated. the UK has a good census site. look it up. got some errands to attend to….

  7. I’ll be looking at the census soon, Razib. Thanks. Perhaps some of our UK mutineers can provide some raw perspective.

  8. I am struck by the fact that 16% of Hindu-Americans are over 65 years old compared to the US average of only 5%. Is that a typo?

    By contrast in Canada 6% of south asians are over 65 compared to the national average of 12%.

  9. Canadian desis are earning significantly less per capita than the average Canadian. Why? Do trade certificates make that much of a difference? What’s the difference between Bachelor’s Degree and College Graduate? Desis are ahead in the former and behind in the latter.

  10. What’s the difference between Bachelor’s Degree and College Graduate?

    the frozen-ones can correct, but i think college is more like junior college. so it’s equiv. to an associates degree?

  11. 64% of Indian-Americans have college degrees compared to 24% of all americans yet the per capita income of Indian-americans is only $6000 higher.

    It looks much worse for Pakistani and Bangladeshi Americans. Despite twice the rate of college degrees they earn less than the average American.

    Maybe we need to consider whether the degrees are granted by American or desi colleges?

  12. Sri Lankans in the US are doing quite well. Despite having fewer college graduates than Indian-Americans they match the latter’s per capita income. But they are less than 1% of the US desi population.

    It would be interesting to see how the Sri Lankans in Canada are performing? They are 13% of the desi population there.

    It is worth remembering that Sri Lanka is by far the most successful south Asian nation. It consistently ranks much higher than the rest of the desi nations in the per capita income and Human Development Index rankings.

  13. Besides the 0% living with partner rate here is another interesting social indicator: only 3% of Indian-Americans have more than two children, which is one- third the US average of 9%.

  14. Regarding UK vs USA South Asians – well the education levels are a lot different.

    I’m a British born Punjabi, now living in the South Bay in California. A lot of the Indian Punjabis and Pakistani Punjabis and Kashmiris in UK are village folk. I have relatives who are illiterate.

    I would say the older generation of Indian Americans are more educated that British Indians on the whole because they are skilled immigrants who came in on a H1-B. In my community, it’s basically expected for the older generation to not be able to speak English.

    There’s a big divide in education and income levels between British Indians and Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Indians are doing OK on the whole. In fact a lot of Bangladeshis are very poor even though a lot live in the City of London right next to all the investment banks. Pakistanis tend to marry village people from Pakistan and then their kids fall even further behind.

    The average British born Indian woman would never contemplate marrying a guy from India, whereas a lot of British Pakistani women would do it.

    I grew up in a VERY Punjabi environment – I never even came across non-Punjabi Indians until I went to university. I never met a Gujurati until I was 19!

    I tend to find that a lot of US born Indians have a big issue with race, it was never a big deal to me when I was growing up in UK.

  15. Thanks Razib for that feedback. I was obviously speculating in broad terms based on simple observation. Looks like I was not far off.

    Anyway, I’m surprised that 27% of South Asians claim English as a first language; most of the 1st, 2nd, and even 3rd Gen browns I know live in bi or tri-lingual houses. Just curious; do you know if people are allowed to put more than 1 language as a 1st language? For example we speak a mix of several languages amongst my family (English mostly, but some Dari/Urdu/Pashto) and I wouldn’t know what language to put as “first”. I can’t remember what I put in the 2010 census.

    I actually think 27% would be low. Hell, I went to India as a kid (didnt know a word of Telugu for my first 7 years). and I still think of English as my first language and Telugu as my second language. Here is an easy test to what your first language is – do you dream in English or your parent’s language? What are your inner thoughts in? How about your curses in the spur of the moment? If English is the answer to most or all of them, it is your first language.

  16. Here is an easy test to what your first language is – do you dream in English or your parent’s language? What are your inner thoughts in? How about your curses in the spur of the moment? If English is the answer to most or all of them, it is your first language.

    Well there’s a difference between “first language” and “dominant language” – I speak English constantly, my inner thoughts are in English, I swear in English, I dream in English, etc….it’s my dominant language for sure. But according to my mom, she spoke to me mostly in Dari and Urdu as a kid, and we started conversing in English more once I started school at around 3 or 4 and had to use it constantly.

    There’s a big divide in education and income levels between British Indians and Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Indians are doing OK on the whole. In fact a lot of Bangladeshis are very poor even though a lot live in the City of London right next to all the investment banks. Pakistanis tend to marry village people from Pakistan and then their kids fall even further behind. The average British born Indian woman would never contemplate marrying a guy from India, whereas a lot of British Pakistani women would do it.

    I will never understand that trend myself; it’s not uncommon with Pakistani’s here either. I’m only 21 and some of the Pakistani/Afghani girls I went to Islamic Sunday School with as a kid are now engaged and marrying strangers abroad; literally I know 2 girls (they’re cousins) who flew to Karachi the summer after they finished high school and got hitched. Both are getting degrees, too, and they seem happily married, so I’m not putting them down here, but honestly, I don’t get the mentality behind sending your kids abroad to be married.

  17. Btw, looks like I forgot to put quotes around Alina’s words in nmy last comment which could confuse those not looking at the anonymous comments.

    Anyway, I’m surprised that 27% of South Asians claim English as a first language; most of the 1st, 2nd, and even 3rd Gen browns I know live in bi or tri-lingual houses. Just curious; do you know if people are allowed to put more than 1 language as a 1st language? For example we speak a mix of several languages amongst my family (English mostly, but some Dari/Urdu/Pashto) and I wouldn’t know what language to put as “first”. I can’t remember what I put in the 2010 census.
  18. Pravin,

    All this “Here is an easy test to what your first language is – do you dream in English or your parent’s language? What are your inner thoughts in? How about your curses in the spur of the moment? If English is the answer to most or all of them, it is your first language.” is fine and dandy. But you left out the crucial part: What do you talk to your mom in?

  19. i would say english is your first language alina. i learned bengali first, but only use it to talk to my mom and lesser extent my dad.

  20. Razib, When will we have the data on the US South Asian Population from the 2010 census for analyzing?

  21. When will we have the data on the US South Asian Population from the 2010 census for analyzing?

    hopefully the first batches sometime in the second half of this year. but a lot of the stuff takes years to come out. hopefully IT makes this more efficient, but i’m not holding my breath….

  22. Great post Razib. I’m surprised to see some of the statistics. Can anyone shed some light on the following:

    -Bangladeshis have a lot lower median income (and per capita income) compared to Pakistanis. My guess would have been that their median incomes would be quite similar.

    -2% of the hindus are hispanic. That is surprising to me! Never came across any!

    -South Asians in NY make a lot less than those in NJ,CA or TX. Tough life!

    • -2% of the hindus are hispanic. That is surprising to me! Never came across any!

      There are several strains of it. Satya Sai Baba devotees have a pretty strong international following and I’ve met several Hispanic people in Florida who are fans of his.

      ISKON also draws a lot of people too. Actually, I have one friend who is really into punk music and used to live in Chile. He tells me that the Straight Edge movement within punk identifies strongly with the Hare Krishnas. Apparently it’s even more pronounced in Latin America. There is an article about it here.

  23. -Bangladeshis have a lot lower median income (and per capita income) compared to Pakistanis. My guess would have been that their median incomes would be quite similar.

    i think the community is newer, and a lot of them started off blue collar or “diversity lottery.”

    a lot of the issues with disjunction between education and income has to do with length of residency. takes a little time to develop networks to leverage skills.

    ISKON also draws a lot of people too.

    right. buddhism in the USA tends to be white or asian, except for soka gakkai, which has a lot more blacks and hispanics. e.g., hank johnson of georgia

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Johnson

  24. I’m Canadian, so I can answer the question as to the difference between a college diploma and a university degree.

    In Canada, only universities grant bachelors degrees/masters degrees/doctorates. ‘Colleges’ are institutions that exist from the ’60s and focus primarily on hands-on education, often for the trades/vocational work, and are often frequented by those who have never been to a university, or are just looking for a quick upgrade. Rather than granting degrees, they issue a lesser document called a ‘diploma’, which is more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelors degree.

    Depending on the job, that could be what’s required, though.

    You might be interested in knowing that South Asians, taken together as a group, form Canada’s single, largest visible minority, and that 1 in 6 Canadians is a visible minority.

  25. Someone had asked how Sri Lankans in Canada were performing. I’m not sure of the history of Sri Lankans in America, but in Canada they are almost entirely Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. Speaking from my personal impression as a person who grew up in the area where Tamils are concentrated in Canada, I’d say they’ve overall integrated very well, are respected as a hard-working and enterprising group of people, but are largely working class. Those who came as refugees have had issues relating to learning English, getting credentials recognised, etc., but their children speak English with a Canadian accent (or, in the case of Montréal, French, with a Canadian accent) and usually go to university and good jobs.