May 2016: Changing Values + Attitudes Around the World

Reinventing Yourself Globally: Indian-American Values + Attitudes

flickr_by M M

Indian-Americans are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the Untied States. Now numbering nearly 3.2 million, the Indian-American population has quadrupled over the last 25 years.

The overwhelming majority of Indian-Americans — seven of every eight — are immigrants. While they are assimilating to the overall culture of the United States, most still have ties to family and friends in India and retain cultural ties to the country.

As a result, Indian-Americans are developing values and attitudes that mix those of their ethnic heritage and cultural identity with those more prevalent in the country where they now live.


  • Most Indian-Americans come to the United States for educational and economic opportunities — and are satisfied with their achievements.
  • Being a good parent and having a successful marriage are the two most important things in most Indian-Americans’ lives.
  • Many Indian-Americans still feel different from “typical Americans” and seek media that affirm their cultural identity.


The vast majority of Indian-Americans have come to the United States just within the last generation in order to find better opportunities. Most have in fact found a better life in the United States and are satisfied overall with their lives and their new home.

1. Motivation for migration: A 2012 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that more than seven of 10 Indian-American immigrants came to the United Staets seeking greater opportunities — reasons cited by just under half of Asian-Americans overall. Specifically, Indian-Americans cited the following reasons for their migration:

  • Educational opportunity: 37%, compared to 28% of all Asian-Americans
  • Economic opportunity: 34%, nearly twice the share of all Asian-Americans (21%)
  • Family reasons, including family reunification: 18%, a far smaller share than all Asian-Americans (31%)
  • Escape persecution: 2%, far fewer than the Asian-American average of 9%
  • Some other reason: 9%

Indian-Americans have largely made the most of the opportunities they sought. They have become the most educated ethnic group in the United States: 73 percent have earned a college degree, and 41 percent went on to earn advanced degrees. And with a median household income of $88,000, they have become the highest-income ethnic group in the country.

2. Finding a better life: Although Indian-Americans were less motivated than other Asian-American immigrants by the desire for more freedom, many believe that they have created a better life in the United States than they could have in India. Most see the United States as having more to offer in virtually every facet of life:

  • A better chance to get ahead financially. Seven of 10 Indian Americans (71%) — including 70 percent of immigrants and 86 percent of those born in the United States — think they have a better opportunity to get ahead in the United States than they would have had in India.
  • Better treatment of the poor. Most (70%) see the United States as doing a better job, while just 7 percent say India does a better job.
  • Freedom to express political views. A majority (55%) believe that the United States offers more freedom to express one’s political views, although 35 percent see the United States and India offering similar freedom of expression. (Among all Asian Americans, 69 percent believe the US offers greater freedom of expression than their native country.)
  • Freedom to practice their religion. One-third (33%) see the United States as offering greater freedom to practice religion. This, too, was a far smaller share than that of all Asian-Americans (52%). And a majority (57%) say that the United States and India offer similar degrees of religious freedom.

In two areas, however, Indian-Americans see India as superior. While a plurality (42%) see both countries as offering similar moral values, those who choose one over the other favor India (31%) over the United States (21%). In addition, an overwhelming majority of Indian-Americans (69%) say the strength of family ties is better in India (with just 8 percent saying family ties are stronger in the United States).

3. A sense of satisfaction: Given their overall success in the United States, it should not be surprising that most Indian-Americans have a high level of satisfaction with the way their lives are going. More than five of six Indian-Americans (84%) say they are satisfied with life. Two-thirds (67%) rate their personal finances as excellent or good — the highest share of any Asian-American group. And nearly half (47%) say they are satisfied with the direction of the country. In one measure of their satisfaction, 73 percent of Indian-Americans say that if they had the choice, they would come to the United States again. (Just 14 percent say they would stay in India, and 6 percent say they would go elsewhere.)


  • For most Indian-Americans, family comes first — their chief concern and highest priority. As a result, they are likely to seek any products and services that will support and/or enhance their parenting efforts. This encompasses everything from study aids, music and art supplies, and products that help parents manage their family schedules and children’s activities to opportunities to broaden their children’s experience through volunteering, internship, or travel programs.
  • Indian-Americans’ strong sense of family extends to the many close relatives who remain in India. As recent immigrants to the United States, the vast majority of Indian-Americans maintain extensive ties to family members in India. They will therefore welcome products and services that allow them to share their good fortune with family members remaining in India. Services that facilitate remittances and e-tailers that make delivery to India easier or less expensive will find favor among Indian-American consumers.
  • The fact that 95 percent of Indian-Americans celebrate Diwali every autumn demonstrates their desire to preserve and uphold their connection with their heritage. It also provides an opportunity for companies that acknowledge the festival or successfully link their products or services to the celebration of Diwali.