New survey on Asians echoes past studies, highlights success of Indian immigrants

Chart on financial situation. Source: KFF/LA Times Survey of Immigrants

Washington DC: A new report, “Understanding the Diversity in the Asian Immigrant Experience in the U.S.,” by KFF, a nonprofit organization focused on health policy, based on the 2023 KFF-Los Angeles Times Survey of immigrants, has shown Indian immigrants achieved better status on financial and educational aspects contributing positively to the growth of the United States. However, a minority within the community reported feeling threatened, insulted, or discriminated against during the pandemic, and for speaking a foreign language.

According to KFF’s report published on January 4, 2024, the survey conducted between April 10-June 12, 2023, had a sample size of 3,358 immigrants living in the US. Specifically, it looked at 1,318 Asians, of whom about 20 per cent were immigrants from India, and the rest were primarily from China and the Philippines. The Indians surveyed were between the ages of 18 and older and about half were naturalized citizens. Less than one in 10 were in the category “likely undocumented,” and the rest were non-citizens, residing legally in the country.

Director of Immigrant Health Policy at KFF, in Washington DC, Drishti Pillai, told News India Times, “Indian immigrants who come to US usually come via H-1B work visas or student visas for higher education. And this has an impact on their socio-economic and employment characteristics.”

“Since H1B visas usually employ highly educated immigrants in technical fields, we found in our survey that partly as a result of these immigration pathways, a large majority of Indian immigrants have higher educational attainment,” said Pillai one of the authors of the report and a specialist who was part of the survey team. “So roughly eight in 10, 83 per cent, Indian immigrants have at least a college degree or higher, which is greater than the share for other immigrant groups.”

Chairman & CEO of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold, Padma Shri recipient Dr. Sudhir Parikh told News India Times, “Indian Americans are a most successful group of immigrants in the United States. They are well educated, engaged in big businesses, and earn high incomes. One in every seven physicians is an Indian-American. A lot of large IT corporations are now managed and run by Indian-Americans. So, I think we have a great impact due to our ability, talent, intellect, and wealth.”

Chart on COVID-pandemic. Source: KFF/LA Times Survey of Immigrants

According to the report, 49 per cent of Indian immigrants have obtained US citizenship through naturalization. The majority, 62 per cent, resided in high income households with annual earnings exceeding $90,000. Moreover, 80 per cent, expressed a positive perception of educational opportunities either for themselves or their children. Eighty-two per cent believed that their financial situation has improved since coming to US, and 72 per cent, felt that their employment situation has seen positive changes as a consequence of relocating to US.

The report, which examined experiences of Asian immigrants documented a few challenges faced by Indian immigrants as well. While 52 per cent felt that their “safety is better as a result of moving to the US,” 9 per cent felt their condition has become “worse as a result of moving to the US.” Also, 7 per cent felt that the “COVID-19 pandemic changed the way they are treated as an immigrant in a bad way.”

Chart on criticism. Source: KFF/LA Times Survey of Immigrants

The report noted that some twenty-one per cent immigrants were told to “go back to where you came from” and 17 per cent have been “criticized or insulted for speaking a language other than English.” Nine per cent of immigrants also had low healthcare utilization and “skipped or postponed getting health care services for any reason in the past 12 months.”

While talking about her experience conducting this survey, Pillai maintained “It was a very time-consuming and resource intensive effort. We started planning for this survey in early 2022… we wanted to get a nationally representative sample [so] we had to do what’s known as probability-based sampling,” noting the sampling involved a systematic process of extracting details from phone books and address information instead of relying on online ads to request people to participate in the survey.

Pointing out that “immigrants are generally under surveyed” Pillai added that it required a lot of resources to survey a huge number of immigrants. “But we do feel that it was a worthwhile effort. Because this is a growing population in the United States… we felt like it is worth the time and effort to be able to amplify their voices from this community.”



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