September 19, 2006


Are Indians the Model Immigrants? (Vivek Wadhwa,

They have funny accents, occasionally dress in strange outfits, and some wear turbans and grow beards, yet Indians have been able to overcome stereotypes to become the U.S.'s most successful immigrant group. Not only are they leaving their mark in the field of technology, but also in real estate, journalism, literature, and entertainment. They run some of the most successful small businesses and lead a few of the largest corporations. Valuable lessons can be learned from their various successes.

According to the 2000 Census, the median household income of Indians was $70,708—far above the national median of $50,046. An Asian-American hospitality industry advocacy group says that Indians own 50% of all economy lodging and 37% of all hotels in the U.S. AnnaLee Saxenian, a dean and professor at University of California, Berkeley, estimates that in the late 1990s, close to 10% of technology startups in Silicon Valley were headed by Indians.

You'll find Indian physicians working in almost every hospital as well as running small-town practices. Indian journalists hold senior positions at major publications, and Indian faculty have gained senior appointments at most universities. Last month, Indra Nooyi, an Indian woman, was named CEO of PepsiCo (PEP ).

Census data show that 81.8% of Indian immigrants arrived in the U.S. after 1980. They received no special treatment or support and faced the same discrimination and hardship that any immigrant group does. Yet, they learned to thrive in American society. Why are Indians such a model immigrant group?

In the absence of scientific research, I'll present my own reasons for why this group has achieved so much. As an Indian immigrant myself, I have had the chance to live the American dream.

A society can't turn away people with the values he lists and be healthy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 19, 2006 4:33 PM

Is there any difference in the results to our society from accepting Indians, Chinese, Koreans and on the other hand accepting Mexicans?

Posted by: h-man at September 19, 2006 4:45 PM

" They have shown what can be achieved by integrating themselves into U.S. society and taking advantage of all the opportunities the country offers." No govt. handouts? How heartless!

Posted by: ic at September 19, 2006 5:14 PM

And of course, it raises the question in India: "If Indians there have such success, why not here?"

Posted by: Mike Earl at September 19, 2006 5:23 PM

Mike Earl, I think the reason is the American Dream is real and can be lived in the US whereas it can't elsewhere. I worked with Indian engineers here in Asia and the US. They were very competent in both places but only in the US can they reach their plateau. For instance my co-worker in Abu Dhabi tried for 5 years to get a simple drivers license. He never got one and never will. Here is how ridiculous it is. On a 100KPH road he was failed for not driving exactly 100KPH, the next year he was failed for driving 98KPH, then next year failed for 101 KPH. How can he achieve his potential when he can't advance his personal stature. In the US they don't have these problems and can make their way with relative ease. Consequently they give it their all and succeed in the US.

Posted by: Tom Wall at September 19, 2006 6:32 PM

The article gives very few reasons to be able to compare the Indians, with say, perhaps Mexicans.
Someone answer me this: have you ever met someone from the Untouchable class who has become successful in America? If you have any, ask your Indian friends what their families in India do for a living?
Do the sons of daughters of surgeons in Mexico sneak over the border? Or perhaps are they, like the Brahmin of India, afforded more opportunities (like a good education) afforded from having rich parents?

Posted by: Potter at September 19, 2006 10:50 PM

Potter, I can answer a small part of your question. Since you used Medicine I'll do likewise from listening to my family who for the most part are Dr's.

Both Mexican and Indian, or any 3rd World Dr cannot simply come to the US and practice if their sole medical education was completed in their native state. Most cannot pass their boards. The reason being is their ciriculum majors in resperatory ailments, i.e. TB, dengue,bacterial, etc., and ailments not common in the US. Most end up either being educated in the US or equivalent training, post grad.

Dr. Alvarez, a Mexican peasant came to the US with his family (probably illegal), joined the Military and off to VietNam, went to college,became a citizen, became an orthopedic surgeon. Operated on my knee in 1984.

Of course money helps and I do know that several of the Indians I have worked with do have monied parents. No denying that.

Posted by: Tom Wall at September 19, 2006 11:24 PM

This is why I want to:

(1) Build a fence along the Mexican border and

(2) Open up the quotas for India (and any other country whose immigrants do better than average.)

This country has been and will be built buy immigrants ... so shouldn't we pick the best?

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at September 20, 2006 3:02 PM

There are none better than the Mexicans we're getting, but, as Thomas Sowell has pointed out, all immigrant groups do better than average. The quality won't change when they switch from walking to boating.

Posted by: oj at September 20, 2006 3:12 PM

Ralph, don't despair. No matter where they come from, they become the "best" when they get here. Perhaps not many become professionals in the first generation, but by the second, watch their smoke.

Posted by: erp at September 20, 2006 5:59 PM

"..all immigrant groups do better than average."
oj, Who wouldy you say is doing worse than average?

Posted by: Emma at September 21, 2006 12:30 AM

Obviously almost all immigrant groups do better than natives. But some immigrant groups do better than other immigrant groups. With Indian immigrants you don't have to wait for the second or third generation - they're starting businesses, paying taxes and employing the native-born at a far higher rate than Mexicans. Plus their contacts back home help cement ties with this century's next superpower. There are other groups with other benefits - we can steal Europe's best educated and brightest, people from ex-Communist countries know what freedom really means and will fight to preserve it, etc.

I'm just sayig if we're going to have lots of immigrants we should select them based on our national interest, and "who's best at sneaking over the border" is probably not a very good selection mechanism.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at September 21, 2006 7:15 AM


Once you start picking and choosing based solely on "success" oughtn't you deport the natives, since they do worse than the immigrants?

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2006 7:52 AM


Natives are lazy--immigrants motivated.

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2006 8:36 AM

"oughtn't you deport the natives..."

No, because we're the one paying the taxes and voting for the politicians. I want an immigration policy designed to maximize our national interests.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at September 21, 2006 2:31 PM

What interest do we have in keeping lazy natives when we could replace them with hard working immigrants who share our values?

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2006 2:36 PM

"What interest do we have in keeping lazy natives ..."

My interest in keeping "lazy natives" is that I am one.

Now, what immigration policy most benefits me? One that brings in lots of employable, emloyment generating, current and future taxpayers.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at September 21, 2006 3:21 PM

Yesm but your interest diverges radically from our society's.

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2006 9:53 AM