Shikha Dalmia and Sadanand Dhume on Indian Americans

by Reihan Salam

Shikha Dalmia of Reason has a column on the political preferences of Indian Americans. Her basic take is that Indian Americans find the overt religiosity of the U.S. right discomfiting, particularly because Hindus in particular are raised to appreciate a more pluralistic model of faith. She quotes a recent column by Sadanand Dhume of AEI:

In 2010, median household income for Indian-Americans was $88,000, compared to the national average of $49,800. Seven in ten Indian-Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to three in ten in the general population. Only 9 percent live in poverty, compared to the national average of 12.8 percent. …

What about social values? The Pew survey finds that a minuscule 2.3 percent of Indian-American children are born to unmarried mothers—compared to 37 percent of children nationwide. More than nine out of ten Indian-American children live with married parents, compared with the national average of about six in ten. If the GOP is the party of the nuclear family—a Pew survey finds that 88 percent of Republicans say they have “old-fashioned values” about family and marriage, compared with just 60 percent of Democrats—then should it not also be the party of Indian-Americans?

My hypothesis regarding the political preferences of Indian Americans is straightforward: as Shikha suggests Indian Americans have tended to assimilate easily. And so Indian Americans tend to vote like other Americans with similar skill profiles and who live in similar places. We know that college-educated professionals living in dense coastal cities and inner suburbs tend to back Democrats, and a disproportionately large share of Indian Americans adults fall into this category. It is possible that Indian Americans have a somewhat greater pro-Democratic bias than non-Hispanic white Americans, i.e., an Indian American living in Plano, Texas might be somewhat more inclined to back a Democratic candidate than a non-Hispanic white American living down the street, but I doubt the skew is very large. Dhume makes a related point when he writes that most Indian Americans “live in reliably blue states such as California, New York, and New Jersey” and that this “probably colors their perspective.”

Update! A friend points me to Razib Khan’s analysis of how religious identity might shape voting preferences among Asian Americans.