September 16, 2013

Miss America pageant puts Indian Americans in the spotlight

FT_miss-america-discriminationThis past weekend, for the first time in its history, the Miss America pageant crowned an Indian American as the winner. The announcement was followed by a barrage of tweets disparaging the beauty queen’s ethnic heritage and questioning whether her Indian background makes her less “American.”

The new Miss America is 24-year-old Nina Davuluri of Fayetteville, N.Y. Her parents emigrated from India 30 years ago. Davuluri, who is a graduate of the University of Michigan, plans to attend medical school and become a physician, like her father.

The Indian American community, now numbering more than 3 million, has notably high rates of education. According to the American Community Survey, seven-in-ten Indian Americans ages 25 and older have a college degree, compared with 28% of the general population. A Pew Research Center survey of Asian Americans conducted in 2012 found that a majority of first-generation (foreign-born) Indian Americans (71%) cite educational or economic opportunities as the main reason they decided to move to the United States.

The survey also found that few Indian Americans (10%) say discrimination against their community is a major problem. Nearly half (48%) see discrimination as a minor problem, while 38% say it is not a problem at all. When asked about their personal experiences with discrimination, most Indian Americans (81%) say they have not been treated unfairly because of their national origin, but nearly a fifth (18%) say they have faced discrimination. And while a large majority of Indian Americans (90%) say they have not been called offensive names, 10% say they have had that experience.

Topics: Discrimination and Prejudice

  1. Photo of Neha Sahgal

    is a Senior Researcher at the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.


  1. sally Edelstein3 years ago

    In the great cultural cauldron of 20thcentury America there was one basic ingredient to being an American beauty- Caucasian Well apparently that old fashioned recipe for prejudice is still being used by some when it comes to the racist reaction to the choice of an Indian American for Miss America.
    Xenophobia was and is as American as Miss America and Apple Pie. Only the nationalities change with time. Once upon a time, Irish or Italian was too exotic to be considered an all American beauty. Take a look at some vintage ideas of American beauty

    1. Bill Keller3 years ago

      Actually, Indians are Caucasians.

      1. spunky3 years ago

        well causcoid group. The term caucasian typically refers to those of european heritage as oppose to refering to people of the caucaus (armenia,chenya etc).
        but europeans to middle easterns to northern indians are refer to as either caucasian or typically causcoid.
        white just refers to europeans.

  2. cloris12123 years ago

    Thank you for your sharing, looking forward to your next published