The Asian American population in the D.C.-area increased dramatically over the past decade, The Washington Post reports:
Indians are the latest wave of Asians transforming the region, having leapfrogged over Koreans a decade ago. For the first time, they make up the biggest group of Asians in Virginia, largely because they have moved to the Washington suburbs.
Their increasing presence reflects the growth of information-technology jobs in the region. Most came for jobs, having attended school elsewhere in the United States or in India, said Qian Cai, head of demographics at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
With their high levels of education and income, Indians are pushing up those averages for the entire region.
“The ability to attract the Asian Indian community here helps to increase the knowledge base of our metro area,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “These are the cream of the crop, in terms of people who have high skills. Their kids are going to our schools and improving the schools in the process.”
While many Asians in the D.C.-area have high levels of education and income, and particularly those settling in wealthier counties such as Loudoun and Fairfax in Virginia, there are Asian Americans who don’t fit the mold.
D.C.-based advocacy group South Asian Americans Leading Together produced a 2009 report [PDF] in which D.C. South Asians — mostly Indians — reported that among their most pressing concerns were post-9/11 discrimination and access to health care, job trainings and legal services.
SAALT policy director Priya Murthy wrote in an email to DCentric that despite all of the successes experienced by South Asians in D.C., “it’s also important to remember that, as with any immigrant population, there are unique challenges that community members face,” she writes. “… We can’t forget that there is also a significant working-class population who works in the region as taxicab drivers, domestic workers, and restaurant workers. It is crucial to consider that certain metrics of success for the community do not mask ongoing challenges that many South Asians face.”
Although many of the about 200 South Asians surveyed in the SAALT study were high-income earners, 11 percent earned less than $29,000 annually, many of whom had advanced degrees:
… Of those that earned less than $29,000, 62% had completed a graduate or professional program. In discussions with South Asian taxi drivers, most of whom are naturalized citizens, many spoke proudly of their educational attainment in their home countries, and of their frustration during their job search in the United States, especially in fields commensurate with their levels of education. They explained that driving a taxi was supposed to be a means to an end—a temporary job until they found work more suitable for their skill set. But with the influx of immigrants just like them, the network of taxi drivers expanded, and the temporary aspect slowly evolved into permanency.