National Data | Bad News About Those South Asian Model Immigrants
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Lincoln Kahn's recent story about his sociopathic South Asian college roommate attracted some criticism because it was "anecdotal."

Needless to say, pro-immigration anecdotes are never criticized. Witness Newsweek magazine's simultaneous typically happy-face, story profiling several successful South Asian immigrants—artists, writers, and entrepreneurs. It claimed these young, upwardly mobile stars represent a "breakout generation" of ethnic Asians who are "…transforming America's cultural landscape, setting the pace in business, the arts and media as well as traditional fields favored by their parents' generation, medicine and technology." [Barbara Kantrowitz and Julie Scelfo, "American Masala," Newsweek, March 22, 2004.]

An Indian sociologist interviewed for the story was quoted as saying:

"They're following the Jewish model of penetrating the structural arrangement of society—economic, politics—without losing their cultural identity…"

Well, I do the data at VDARE.COM. And I am here to report that this glowing picture is not visible in the broad statistical measures of economic well-being.

The Census makes it hard to break out South Asians. But at the end of the 1990s, the poverty rate for Asian immigrants (15.2 percent) was significantly above that of U.S. natives (12.0 percent). And remember, that native poverty rate is skewed by the troubled black and Hispanic communities. The poverty rate for native-born whites was only 8.6 percent in 2000.

Poverty rates do vary considerably among South Asian ethnicities, from 9.6 percent among Indian immigrants to 62.0 percent among the Hmong. (Table 1.)  This, of course, is yet more evidence that it makes sense to consider national origins in framing immigration policy.

But there is an alarming increase in poverty among the more recent arrivals: (Table 2.)

  • 21.1 percent of Asians who immigrated in the 1990s are poor


  • 18.1 percent of Asian who immigrated in the 1980s are poor


  • 7.7 percent of Asians who immigrated in the 1970s are poor


  • 7.6 percent of Asians who immigrated prior to 1970 are poor

South Asian immigrants who entered in the 1960s and 1970s are the real economic stars of this group. One study, by the University of the Pacific's Dr. Bruce LaBrack, reports that as early as 1980, 11 percent of South Asian men and 8 percent of the women living in America were physicians. In inner-city hospitals, they can constitute as much as 40 percent of the staff physicians and 50 percent of the nurses.

Of the remaining (non-MD) South Asian males, many were trained in cutting edge technologies, which are in great demand, such as computer science and physics.

But, as these skilled immigrants gained economic ground, the "family reunification" bias of U.S. immigration policy facilitated immigration of their extended families. (Including importing new brides—i.e. creating new families, not "reuniting" them). By the mid-1980s family reunification surpassed skills as major impetus for Asian immigration to the U.S.:

  • In 1996 72 percent of the 65,599 South Asian immigrants entered the U.S. under family preference provisions


  • 19 percent entered under employer preference provisions. (Note that this includes accompanying family members).

For these later immigrants the picture is one of declining relative skills and economic performance.  Among immigrants from India in the late 1980s, for example, only 20% had more than a high school education and 9 percent were unemployed.  There are far fewer professionals than in earlier waves.

Most of this cohort end up with dead end jobs—running cheap motels, small neighborhood stores, marginal gas stations, or taxi-driving.

One lesson from this sad story: no matter how good the pool of potential immigrants, current policy's paradoxical selection process will mess it up.

Another lesson: don't expect the Establishment Media to report this bad news.

That's what VDARE.COM is for!

[Number fans click here for tables.]

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.

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