Where My Desis At…So Far?

Two million South Asian Americans. At least, those are the figures we’ve been working with since the 2000 Census and many of us have been on the edge of our seats to see how these numbers have changed in the past 10 years. The US Census is slowing releasing their data and this week they released numbers the larger Asian subcategories under Asian. Meaning, we now have access to some “Asian Indian only” data for SOME of the states. This didn’t keep the media from publishing findings, and I spent some time trying to suss out their source.

A little surfing on American FactFinder (actually, a really inordinate amount of time surfing – they’ve updated the site and it’s not very intuitive). It turns out the South Asian American population has grown – of the Asian American categories, Asian Indians are the second largest only after Chinese. The South Asian population is at 2,802,676 and these will most likely change as the 2010 numbers get published on the census site.

So. Where exactly are the Desis at?

Concentration of Asian Indians v.2.JPG

I took the population data available and did a county break down of all the Asian Indians residing and divided that by the total population. Please note, since the data is still being released in waves, we are still missing a few states to this analysis – Arkansas, New Jersey and Texas and likely some more. Clearly the data for New Jersey and Texas will change the findings. Also keep in mind that the sub-categories for Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc… have not been published yet.

At 11.1% concentration, we have Sutter County, CA listed at the top. Home to Yuba City and a long history of Sikh American farmers, this should come as no big surprise, though the percentage point is rather high. Santa Clara County is next on the list and is considered the “Silicon Valley”, including landmarks such as Stanford University and Google. Third on the list is of course, Queens County, which is where the Indian neighborhood Jackson Heights is.

Largest Populations of Asian Indians v.2.JPG

If you look at raw population count alone, Santa Clara County is number one, Queens County is number two and Los Angeles County is number three.Do keep in mind while looking at these charts that Texas and New Jersey data still has not been tallied and will make a significant contribution to how this chart shifts. What the data does show is the significant Asian Indian growth in California, which is no real big surprise.

New York and New Jersey have traditionally had the largest concentration of Indians, but the data out today show that California’s Silicon Valley has lured a substantial number.

According to detailed figures released so far for about half the states, California cities dominate the list of those with the greatest share of Asian Indians — most of them in Silicon Valley.

Six of the top 10 cities that have at least 10,000 residents are in California: Cupertino, Fremont, Sunnyvale, Livingston, Yuba City and Santa Clara. In each city, at least one in seven residents are Asian Indian. “The growth in population is because of job opportunities and better education,” says Raj Bhanot, a tax auditor for the state of California.

New York state’s Asian Indian population grew 24.6% to 313,620 over the past decade, and New York City’s grew 12.5% to 192,209. [usatoday]

Is the data accurate or not? Will the data change when data comes out for Texas and New Jersey? Only time will tell as the results slowly trickle in. We’ll keep you posted.

This entry was posted in Community, Identity, Issues, Politics by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

38 thoughts on “Where My Desis At…So Far?

  1. awesome. when it all comes out i’ll put some down and generate some map plots with R.

    • I totally wish that we could break this all down based on language, but even then, I’m sure that a lot of bias/inaccuracies would get introduced into the study.

      One thing that I’d like to get off of my chest is this: It seems when I talk to a South Asian ethnic group, let’s call it A, they always feel that they are under-represented when compared to other South Asian ethnic groups.

  2. One thing that I’d like to get off of my chest is this: It seems when I talk to a South Asian ethnic group, let’s call it A, they always feel that they are under-represented when compared to other South Asian ethnic groups.

    That’s because some ethnic groups definitely are underrepresented compared to others. For example, in the UK there is a huge Punjabi population, whereas here in the US we have a lot more South Indians. I would also like to see precise stats about this though. I think someone (Razib?) posted stats about language breakdown amongst S.Asians a while back.

  3. The Illinois data set will add a ton of Indians as well. Many of the Chicago suburbs are 10%+ Indian and you can’t drive two miles without running into a temple or an Indian grocery store.

    As for subgroups of Indians within the US, I don’t think South Indians comprise a majority of Indians at all (though I’m sure their numbers have increased dramatically since the tech boom in the 1990s). Gujaratis and Punjabis seem to dominate the landscape in the US the same way they do in the UK (and probably Canada as well). But it would be great to see specific numbers on this.

    • Kevin: As for subgroups of Indians within the US, I don’t think South Indians comprise a majority of Indians at all (though I’m sure their numbers have increased dramatically since the tech boom in the 1990s). Gujaratis and Punjabis seem to dominate the landscape in the US the same way they do in the UK (and probably Canada as well). But it would be great to see specific numbers on this.

      I believe that early on – during the ’60s-’80s, the super majority of the Indian population living in the USA were Punjabis and Gujaratis. I definitely think that starting in the late ’90s, South Indians started coming here in mass during the tech boom. The Indians that are very underrepresented are folks from Madhya Pradesh (I’ve only met one in my entire life), Maharashtra, Orissa, all of Eastern India (i.e. North and East of W. Bengal), Bihar, Jharkhand. Even though Sikhs are 2% of India, they are at least 10% of the Indian-American population. Other over-represented groups include aforementioned Punjabis, Gujaratis, and maybe South Indians. South Indians are definitely over-represented in academia here: I noticed that all the engineering professors at a college were all South Indians by surname and place of college.

  4. Also, my bet is that the Indian population (not including mixed-race Indians) will be 3.2 million. This is based on the fact that the Indian population has doubled every ten years, from 400k in 1980 to 800k in 1990, to 1.6 million in 2000.

  5. Gujaratis and Punjabis seem to dominate the landscape in the US the same way they do in the UK (and probably Canada as well)

    the rank order is reversed from the UK. something like 50% of the brownz in the UK are ethnic punjabi. more like 25% in the USA last i checked, with more gujaratis.

  6. YES Ohio is finally on one of these lists. Does this mean people will stop asking me if there are any other brown people here besides me? I’m speaking to you, Coast people, who think nothing colored exists in the middle.

  7. . Does this mean people will stop asking me if there are any other brown people here besides me? I’m speaking to you, Coast people, who think nothing colored exists in the middle.

    brown bicoastals can be just as ignorant & tardish as white bicoastals :-) (i’m a bicoastal, but i’ve been through ohio, even stopping at the patel-motel between akron and cincinnati).

  8. which patel motel? there is more than one LOL :-) your bicoastal is showing…

  9. i think the regional origins vary by region in the USA. someone should pay for a survey. i’m sure some readers have contacts with non-profits.

  10. Speaking of over-reperesented, South Asians are over-represented in the public sphere. I was in France a few weeks ago talking to someone from Cameroun and what was interesting was his perception that there are “lots” of Indians in the US–that there numbers are at par with the East Asians.

    • I was in France a few weeks ago talking to someone from Cameroun and what was interesting was his perception that there are “lots”

      brownz have big mouths. i’m pretty brown-ignorant so i made a dumb error and assumed bengalis had the biggest mouths. but i’m told that’s not even true.

    • I’m guessing he’s implying patel = motel.

      mebee. but they’ve been around a while. a lot of the kids of motel-patels are now in med school from what i’ve seen.

  11. Thanks for putting up this up. Mom reported lat year that patrons of the fine arts were of much higher character in the southern states and those with low concentrations of desis (Patrons who acknowledge and credit all performers and musicians vs. those who drape themselves on the headliners). Numbers = confidence we’re #1?

    And Maricopa County? Can there be a desi Sheriff?

  12. I wonder if this stat will have any affect on desis’ visibility among AAPI’s at large…any thoughts? Happy Asian/Pacifc American Heritage Month btw!

    • Happy Asian/Pacifc American Heritage Month btw!

      I want to wish all the Palestinians (and Jews), Micronesians, Mongolians, Russians from east of the Urals, Hawaiians, and Tajik a Happy Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

      • i assume u are aware that people from the former soviet union and west asia (including afghanistan) are not “asian” according to the US census?

  13. So how detailed is the raw data? I wonder if you can tease out statistics on race vs. occupation… How skewed is the doctor/engineer/lawyer ratio for south asians compared with others? How has it changed since the previous census?

  14. i assume u are aware that people from the former soviet union and west asia (including afghanistan) are not “asian” according to the US census?

    I’m pretty sure Afghanistan is considered “Asian”, but Iran and the Middle East are lumped in with “Caucasians”. I mean I’m half Afghan and half Paki but I sure as hell wouldn’t indicate half caucasian/asian on the Census, would be ridiculous considering I’m only 1 ethnic group to boot. OTOH, someone like Zach Latif who’s half Paki/Persian would have to do just that based on the arbitrary rules a bunch of white folk made up. The whole Census classification system is so nonsensical when it comes to the Middle East.

  15. I’m pretty sure Afghanistan is considered “Asian”, but Iran and the Middle East are lumped in with “Caucasians”

    i don’t think so. http://www.imdiversity.com/villages/asian/reference/census_what_is_an_apa.asp

    The whole Census classification system is so nonsensical when it comes to the Middle East.

    make sense in light of american history and politics. indian americans in the 1970s lobbied to get aggregated into “asian amerian” in 1980 for reasons you can look up. in contrast, indian americans in the early 20th century wanted to be labeled white cuz they were “caucasian.”

  16. arbitrary rules a bunch of white folk made up. The whole Census classification system is so nonsensical when it comes to the Middle East.

    Ditto when it comes to Latin Americans.

    Or Asians. Ask some racist east asians how they like being lumped with dark skinned desis and pacific islanders.

  17. Or Asians. Ask some racist east asians how they like being lumped with dark skinned desis and pacific islanders.

    East Asians and Pacific Islanders are pretty different culturally and genetically though; they’re lumped together because they’re both on the Asian continent and distinct from Whites. I can understand a Korean not wanting to be lumped in with a Filipino and vice versa. I guess there are lots of different ways to racially classify…geographically, culturally, genetically, politically…and the US Census seems to be an odd mix of these methods.

    Oh and fwiw the entire Afghan side of my family identifies as Asian, and so do lots of Persians I know.

  18. “OTOH, someone like Zach Latif who’s half Paki/Persian would have to do just that based on the arbitrary rules a bunch of white folk made up. The whole Census classification system is so nonsensical when it comes to the Middle East. “

    I don’t see the point of the Census racial classification system in the first place.

    Anyway its very weird but growing up there is the specific I don’t know “Bazaari” subculture that sort of links the Khaleej, South Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan & the western edges of india so I never felt particularly “mixed” or “half”. The main difference is in mentality; as a rule of thumb Persians are subtle whereas Paks are overt.

    Pre-1950 there was so much movement all around that families were very linked. We use the word “desi” and other such terms but these are external identifiers. Also I think the last century has seen Middle Easterners (particularly sophisticates) actively stress how Westernised and “non-Asian” they are. Every time I heard a Middle Eastern person say how unique the “Middle East” is I want to ask them what exactly is the “Middle East”. There is Arab world, Iran, Turkey, Af-Pak which seamlessly blends into India. Unfortunately the third world, particularly the Islamic world, has been deeply “Westoxified” absorbing the superficial elements of Western culture and orientation without imbibing the best and most formidable values.

    Anyway to cut a long story short I’m as Brown as can be (though have never used that term) and definitely think of myself as an Asian & Easterner and I have a fairly good grasp of Persian culture. The Persians and other Middle Easterners have to define their own orientation but there is a trend, particularly among the secular and Westernised, to deny their “Easterness”..

    Funny story when my oldest brother was getting married, his Sikh wife wore Desi but then also “respected our culture” by wearing a white wedding dress for one of the events. That’s what I found funny is that Arabs and Persians only do the western wedding dress and have completely adopted, which I never understand because I’ve been curious what was the “original” type (just googled it for Persians the bridal couple wore white and for Afghans its green).

  19. Hmm that’s interesting. What I’ve noticed here in the US is that Paki-Americans usually go for the traditional Indian bridal dress, which is red, and usually heavily embroidered. Paki brides will usually wear what’s called a tikka, and sometimes a nose ring too, which I think is an Indian style. Afghan American brides (and I’ve only been to 2 such weddings) often wear white, in the Western style.

    • Pakistanis do full desi (they also added another evening the Mayun, which is very Desi) but I meant Persians do white bridal (like the Afghans and the Arabs) and don’t think twice about it. I guess weddings weren’t as big a deal (4days affairs) in the Middle east as they were in South asia..

      • Zachary Latiff: Pakistanis do full desi (they also added another evening the Mayun, which is very Desi) but I meant Persians do white bridal (like the Afghans and the Arabs) and don’t think twice about it. I guess weddings weren’t as big a deal (4days affairs) in the Middle east as they were in South asia

        I suppose that this makes South Indians not-so-desi since they don’t arrive on a horse, have mendhi, mayun, etc. They have garlands and a big ass lunch and dinner in which guests sit on the floor, but no singing and dancing. This was the way historically, but I’m sure with the rise of bollywood and being a part of India since ’47, things are getting Punjabified.

        • Yup my Sindhi friend was going on about how Punjabis, despite being a tiny fraction of India’s population (only 3%!), are disproportionately influential..

  20. Hah…I never knew that there were counties in Georgia with such a high percentage of desis…

  21. Yep, I’m waitin for the Texas data. Excluding Dallas and Harris (home of Houston) counties is probably a sin at this point.

  22. ZL and Boston Mahesh: “Zachary Latiff: Pakistanis do full desi (they also added another evening the Mayun, which is very Desi) but I meant Persians do white bridal (like the Afghans and the Arabs) and don’t think twice about it. I guess weddings weren’t as big a deal (4days affairs) in the Middle east as they were in South asia

    Boston Mahesh: I suppose that this makes South Indians not-so-desi since they don’t arrive on a horse, have mendhi, mayun, etc. They have garlands and a big ass lunch and dinner in which guests sit on the floor, but no singing and dancing. This was the way historically, but I’m sure with the rise of bollywood and being a part of India since ’47, things are getting Punjabified.”

    I have to point out one thing here—you are saying Punjabi = desi, and therefore south indians are not desi. If you assume Punjabi = desi and all others aren’t desi, tautalogically punjabis have a disproportionate representation :) . I am pretty sure no one in their right minds in India would ever say South Indians are not desi. Though as far as some of the diaspora and pakistanis are concerned, non punjabis from India don’t seem to register.

    It isn’t quite fact that Punjabi have a disproportionately high impact on India, but from your lens, it is. We love them of course, but we also love non Punjabis around here.