The Other Half of the Other One Percent

Seema Kumar

This past week I’ve been reading The Other One Percent, Indians in America, by Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh, which tells the story of the remarkable rise of Indians in America and how the process of selection, assimilation, and entrepreneurship has led to the success of Indians in America.

Published in 2016, the book is a fascinating read on the success of Indian immigrants who comprise merely one percent of immigrant population in the US but are some of the most educated and highest income groups in the most powerful country in the world. Using a data driven approach, the authors argue that Indian immigrants were “triple selected;” in other words, they came from the dominant class, were selected to take exams in tech fields, and benefited from US immigration law that favored their technology skills, While this triple selection has led to the cream of the crop immigrating to the US and being successful, other factors that also contribute to Indian immigrants success: English language skills, thrift and savings mentality, strong social networks, cohesive families, and an experience living in a heterogenous country like India that makes them easily adaptable.

What about Indian women? Where do we fit into this equation? How did Indian women come to America? What selection process or factors led to their success or not? How successful are we? The data needed to answer questions about Indian women and their success and contributions is still unclear and bears looking into.

What is clear is that Indian women are also breaking boundaries here in America. In my own circle of friends, I know Indian women who in some cases came to America as wives, married to the Indian men immigrating to the US. They may not have gone through the triple selection process, or the tech education of their male counterparts, but they too proceeded to assimilate well into their new surroundings and used the same entrepreneurship skills to succeed professionally. 

Other Indian women came as students, and yet others were born here in America to Indian immigrants and many have risen to professional heights.

Their stories—the stories of the Indian women and their journeys to success or of coming to America and succeeding here--have an allure of their own.

Those are the types of stories SEEMA aspires to tell and to showcase the extraordinary impact and influence that the women of India and South Asia are having on the trajectory of advanced nations like the USA, Canada, UK, and Australia, among others.

The success story of Indian immigrants today is still largely missing the other half of “the other one percent”. Our vision is to shine the spotlight on the success stories of this other half.