Oct 7, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Indian Americans now largest Asian American group in U.S.

Inderjeet Poolust, 5, from India, celebrates at a U.S. citizenship ceremony in New York. Photo: Debbie Egan-Chin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S., and Americans of Indian descent are now the largest sub-group within that, new data released from the 2020 Census confirms.

Why it matters: Indian Americans have a long history in the U.S. but their population was relatively small until the 1960s when a change in immigration policy helped lead to a migration boom of Indian tech workers. Over the generations, other family members also moved to the U.S.

By the numbers: The number of Americans who consider their racial origin as solely Asian Indian grew more than 50% to nearly 4.4 million people from 2010 to 2020.

  • When factoring in people who consider themselves either single race or multiracial, the most populous Asian identification among Americans is still Chinese (excepting Taiwanese): 5.2 million people.
  • That's an increase of 37.2% since 2010.
  • According to the Census, the five states with the largest percentages of Asian groups are California, New York, Texas, Hawaii and Washington.

Between the lines: If you look at people who identify as belonging to just one racial group — Asian — there are more Indian people than Chinese in the U.S., a trend that began in 2019, University of California, Riverside, political scientist Karthick Ramakrishnan, co-founder of AAPI Data, told Axios.

  • Stereotypes of who's in what ethic group often stem from who's in the first waves of migration into a country. Indian Asians have been in America throughout U.S. history, but East Asians accounted for many of the earlier arrivals.
  • Ramakrishnan pointed out that in the U.K, where the first waves were predominantly from South Asia, that's how most of the Asian population there is viewed.

What they’re saying: "We've had a very diverse Asian population," said Ramakrishnan, also co-author of article, "Who Counts As Asian?".

  • The rise of Indian Asians in America is significant partly because "it flies in the face of what people stereotypically think of as the quintessential Asian — their default image of someone who is Asian is East Asian."

Yes, but: As hate crimes against Asian Americans increase, half of all Asian Americans say they don't feel safe in this country, and nearly 80% feel like they don't belong.

  • There's very little data on how — and how many — Americans of Indian or South Asian descent have been targets of hate crimes.
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