Douglas Todd: People of Indian descent a rising force in the U.S. and Canada

While the understandable focus is with respect to those of Indian descent holding leadership and senior positions, there is a larger group of workers in such industries as agriculture and trucking. From a political perspective, the outsized influence of Sikh and other Indo-Canadians reflects their geographic concentration: 47 ridings in Canada have 10 percent or more South Asian residents (2016 Census).

List: VM Ridings South Asian 10 percent

India is on the rise across the United States and Canada — in education, high-tech and politics.

The CEOs of five of the most powerful high-tech companies in North America have origins in India. They’re heading Microsoft, Google, IBM, Twitter and Match Group (which owns Tinder).And people of Indian ancestry are punching above their weight in politics in the U.S. and Canada. “There may well be an Indian-American president before there is an American Indian one,” says The Economist.

The educational achievements of people of Indian origin are above the norm in North America. And their are among the strongest of any ethnic group in the U.S. and Canada. This is not to mention one study showing people of Indian origin are almost four times more likely to own a home than the average Canadian.

India is the second highest source country for immigrants to the U.S., where 4.6 million have Indian origins, or 1.4 per cent of the total. They are mostly from southern India and tend to live in the U.S. South and East.

In Canada, India is the No. 1 source country for immigrants by far, accounting for 30 per cent of all newcomers since 2016.

There are 1.4 million people with Indian roots in Canada, most of whom are immigrants. They make up four per cent of the population. Generally from Northern India, most live in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

Even though many are already flying high in U.S. high-tech, the impact of people of Indian background on Canadian business, especially, is growing sharply.

The influence of Indo North Americans is destined to expand further. Let’s look at why.

The tech sectors in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are expanding on the strength of a workforce where two of five are foreign born. And U.S. immigration rules designed to protect homegrown workers means our southern neighbour is losing thousands of Indian high-tech experts and others to Canada.

With the U.S. restricting its coveted H-1B working visa (including with a rule that no one country can be the source of more than seven per cent of recipients), many computer specialists are among the more than 217,000 people from Indian who can work in Canada as foreign students (they make up 30 per cent of all international students).

Canada also accepted 128,000 people from India last year as new immigrants, many of them programmers. And it’s on track for a similar number in 2022. That compares to just 39,000 immigrants from India in 2015, when Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were first elected.

Such business success is made possible in large part because educational levels soar among those of Indian descent.

In the U.S. three of four of adults of Indian background have bachelors degrees or better, according to Pew Research. That’s the highest of any Asian immigrant group, with Chinese Americans coming in at 57 per cent. The overall bachelor’s degree average in the U.S. is 38 per cent.

In Canada, educational achievement is also pronounced. A recent Statistics Canada study by Theresa Qiu and Grant Schellenberg found 50 per cent of South Asian-Canadians (mostly from India) had bachelors degrees or more. The portion rose to 62 per cent among South Asian women.

The portion of bachelors degrees among Canadians with origins in South Asia is much higher than the 24 per cent for white men and 38 per cent for white women, as well as the 17 per cent for Latin American men and 28 per cent for Latin American women. One of the few ethnic groups scoring higher than South Asians are Chinese Canadians.

And wages reflect education levels. The median household income in the U.S. of Indian households is by far the highest of any ethnic-Asian group, at US$119,000, according to Pew.

The typical Chinese American household brings in US$82,000. The median household income across the U.S. is US$67,000.

While U.S. figures on housing are not readily available, a consumer survey by Vivintel, based in Toronto, found that South Asians, a solid majority of whom are from India, are almost four times more likely to buy a homethan the average Canadian.

“Home ownership is very important to South Asians … because they’re told by their parents that renting is just throwing away your money,” says Rahul Sethi, a 38-year-old director of Vivintel who immigrated to Canada from India with his family.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the rise of Indians in North America is their oversized affect on politics.And it’s not just because of U.S. vice-president Kamala Harris, who went to an English-language high school in Montreal after her scientist mother from India, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, got a job researching breast cancer at McGill University.

Even though Harris is a front-runner as a future Democrat presidential nominee, she’s far from alone in U.S. halls of power.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, who surveys Asian American attitudes from the University of California, maintains Indo Americans are far likelier than other immigrant groups to get involved in politics as donors, voters and candidates. They tend to favour Democrats by a margin of three to one.

Ram Villivalam, a state senator in Illinois, says having Harris running to be president gives confidence to Indo Americans. Pramala Jayapal, the first woman of South Asian descent to preside over the Congress, is now one of four influential Indo American politicians, dubbed the Samosa Caucus, in the House.

A similar movement is happening in Canadian politics.

The Indo Canadian population, like the Indo American, leans liberal-left. More than 38 per cent of respondents to a 2021 YouGov poll would cast a vote for the Liberals — twice the number that planned to go with the Conservatives.

One in five backed the left-wing New Democratic Party, the country’s third largest party, which has been lead for five years by Indo Canadian Jagmeet Singh.

More than 12 per cent of cabinet ministers in the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are Indo Canadian, including Harjit Sajjan and Anita Anand. At least 14 Liberal MPs are Indo Canadian.

This impact list goes on in politics, as well as in business and education. Indo North Americans are on a roll.

Source: Douglas Todd: People of Indian descent a rising force in the U.S. and Canada

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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