When Narendra Modi stood at New York’s Madison Square Garden last Sunday, it seemed that almost everyone in the adoring crowd of some 20,000 that surrounded him understood every word and phrase that the Indian prime minister uttered.
But by speaking almost entirely in Hindi, his language of choice even in diplomatic engagements, Modi left out a sizeable portion of the Indian diaspora in America.
That’s because the Indian diaspora in the United States is a hugely diverse community. And although it is dominated by Hindi and Gujarati-speaking groups, as perhaps suggested by the Bollywood-dominated song and dance routine that preceded Modi’s speech, there is more to one of America’s most successful immigrant groups than what meets the eye.
These six charts describe the diversity and economic and educational clout of Indian-Americans.
Spanish, of course, is the most widely spoken foreign language in the United States, with 34 million speakers. But based on US Census Bureau data, Indian languages (including Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Tamil and Bengali, which may be spoken by other nationalities, too) are the second most commonly spoken, greater than even Chinese and Tagalog (Filipino).
Within Indian languages, Hindi, Urdu and Gujarati are the most widely spoken, but the Indian diaspora speaks many more languages from across the subcontinent, evidence of the immigrant group’s diversity.
Although the Indian American community may not be the largest compared to other Asian American groups but according to the Pew Research Center, Indians are among the best educated and highest earning immigrants.
“People from all over come to America, Indians are everywhere in the world,” Modi said at Madison Square Garden. Barring parts of Africa, that’s almost entirely accurate.