Indian Americans: Small in Number, Big in Impact – Economic, Academic, and Policy Contributions Shape US and Beyond

Featured & Cover Indian Americans Small in Number Big in Impact – Economic Academic and Policy Contributions Shape US and Beyond

Indians, while comprising a minor fraction of the US population, wield substantial economic influence. Despite representing only 1.5% of the population, Indian Americans contribute 5-6% of the total income taxes in the United States, equating to approximately $250-300 billion annually. This data comes from a recent report by Indiaspora and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), highlighting the impressive economic strides of the Indian diaspora, which numbers 5.1 million. Notably, about 70% of Indian Americans hold US citizenship.

Prominent figures such as Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and Vertex Pharma’s Reshma Kewalramani (the first female CEO of a major US biotech firm) exemplify the success of Indian Americans in the corporate world. They are among 16 Indian-origin CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies, collectively employing 2.7 million people and generating nearly $1 trillion in revenue.

Indians are not only at the forefront of major American corporations but also play a significant role in the startup ecosystem. They have co-founded 72 out of 648 US unicorns as of 2024, which employ over 55,000 people and have a combined valuation of $195 billion. The report states, “From leading the largest enterprises and founding new companies to employing millions of people across all states, the financial influence of the Indian diaspora shows the determination of individuals who overcame challenges to make meaningful contributions to their new home.”

The emphasis on academic achievement within the Indian community is notable as India strives to build a knowledge economy domestically. Approximately 78% of Indian Americans hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, significantly surpassing the US national average of 36%. Indian Americans also make up 2.6% of full-time faculty in American universities, holding about 22,000 faculty positions. Furthermore, they occupy crucial leadership roles such as deans, chancellors, and presidents in 70% of the top 50 US colleges.

Indian Americans significantly contribute to research, innovation, and academia in the US. Between 1975 and 2019, the share of US patents credited to Indian-origin innovators rose from 2% to 10%. In 2023, Indian-origin scientists were involved in 11% of all NIH grants and accounted for 13% of scientific publications. This showcases their growing influence in advancing scientific research and innovation.

The influence of the Indian diaspora extends beyond academia and into the realm of policy-making and government. As of 2023, approximately 150 Indian Americans held significant positions in the US federal administration, including Vice President Kamala Harris. With Ajay Banga’s appointment as the president of the World Bank, Indian Americans are also making significant impacts in global economic policies and development.

The achievements of Indians in the US also resonate back in India. The diaspora has contributed over $1.5 billion to philanthropy in the US while also supporting various causes in India. In 2018-19, donations from the US to India amounted to around $830 million, representing 35% of all donations to the country. This indicates a strong commitment to giving back to their homeland and addressing critical needs.

Despite these successes, the Indian American community faces challenges. As of 2020, around 6% of Indian Americans lived below the poverty line, and an estimated 14% were undocumented in 2021. These issues highlight the ongoing struggles within the community, despite its overall economic and academic successes.

Indian Americans, though a small portion of the US population, have made significant contributions to the country’s economy, academia, and policy-making. Their success is evident in the high-ranking positions they hold in major corporations and government, their substantial academic achievements, and their philanthropic efforts both in the US and India. However, challenges such as poverty and undocumented status remain areas that need addressing to ensure the continued growth and well-being of the Indian American community.

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