Megha Agrawal, a native of Laloo's Patna, is a computer engineer at Citigroup in New Jersey. Earning, at age 23, a five-figure salary well above the national average of $44,389, she represents the highest earning subgroup in the United States: Asians.
According to new data from the US Census Bureau, Asians have a median income of $57,518, nearly 30 per cent higher than the national average. Indian Americans are among the fastest growing immigrant groups in America. As per the 2000 census, the Indian American population is nearly 1.7 million, about 106 per cent more than the 1990 census number. They are also one of the wealthiest and best-educated communities. And 58 per cent of this group (above age 25) has a college degree.
As the community continues its financial ascension, a few trends are emerging, including an increase in the number of women entering the male-dominated field of computer sciences, like Agrawal. Malini Arora, a vice president at Citigroup, agrees: “I'm seeing more women come in at younger ages, from college.” At Megha's level, the ratio between men and women is 60-40, which is still pretty good and higher than what it used to be. But, says Arora, up the corporate ladder, there aren't many women–Indian or otherwise–because of long hours. Instead, she sees more women in consultancy due to flexible timings.
Another growing trend is a rise in the number of Indian Americans choosing the legal profession, where salaries are more than $100,000. Sonal Shah, founder of Indicorps, a non-profit organisation that encourages Indians across the world to actively participate in India's progress, sees this: “As the community grows, more young people are getting into policy, law, international development–things that wealthier communities are able to do.” Shah’s day job is as a vice president at investment bank Goldman Sachs.
One reason behind the success of the Indian diaspora, she says, is that people who came in the 1950s and '60s had graduate degrees or fellowships and didn't have to take on debt: “They could go straight into service jobs. And they knew education was the only way out. Our parents were willing to give up anything to send us to the best colleges. That's payback 10 times over.”
Bharat Bhargava, 68, is a prime example. Bhargava came to the US in 1962 to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School and stayed on. After working at Wachovia Securities for 24 years, he is now president of Bankworld Inc, a Washington DC area-based management consulting firm advising in the fields of banking and capital markets in developing countries. Bhargava was appointed Associate Director for the Minority Business Development Agency at the US Department of Commerce by George Bush Sr and lives in Fairfax County in Virginia, an area with a median household income at $88,133 and home to many Indians. He says one reason Indians in America have been successful is that they are very hard working and the “environment rewards your hard work”.
And Indian-Americans are sharing their wealth. For a 2004 project at Harvard on diaspora philanthropy, Mark Sidel, professor at Iowa University, researched the Indian diaspora and found that they have been “increasingly generous” to causes in India, ranging from health, agriculture and education to religion and community development. “The spirit of generosity, there is no doubt, is growing,” he says. “The numbers are hard to pin down, but we are talking about tens of millions of dollars at least, each year, in multiple channels.” This, says Sidel, is very impressive because it occurs at all income levels, including Megha's. The oldest of three sisters, she says she “supports and funds the extravagance” of her sisters, both of whom are currently undergraduate students in the US.
1,678,000 Americans of Indian origin in 2000. A 106% increase over 1990.200,000 Indian-American millionaires 43.6% Of Indian-Americans in the workforce are employed as managers or professionals 35,000 Indian-American physicians 300,000 Indian-Americans in hi-tech >5,000 Indian-American professors15% Of Silicon Valley start-up firms are owned by Indian-Americans
Source: US-India Political Action Committee