South Asian Immigration and Education in the U.S.: Historical and Social Contexts

Zaynah Rahman, Susan J. Paik


This article examines the historical and social contexts of South Asian immigration and their current socioeconomic and educational outcomes in the United States. Based on an adapted model of incorporation and literature review, this historical analysis examines government policies, societal reception, co-ethnic communities, as well as other barriers and opportunities of three immigration waves before and after the Immigration Act of 1965. The study reveals the modes of incorporation differed for each immigrant wave as well as subsequent socioeconomic and educational outcomes within the South Asian community. Before 1965, the earliest migrants had several barriers to incorporation coupled with government and societal hostility. After 1965, South Asians began immigrating under more favorable or neutral modes of incorporation. They were also more wealthy, educated, fluent in English, and had professional skills. While the majority of South Asians today represent this demographic composition, a rising subgroup of immigrants arriving under differential circumstances since the 1980s are facing more unique challenges within this community.


South Asian American, immigration history, co-ethnic community, modes of incorporation, educational outcomes

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