Hey Kid, do you plan to return from America?

First, a plug for Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) published in Mumbai.  Known for its bold and independent viewpoint, and in depth research and analysis, every week it brings together the writings of academics, economists, political activists and social scientists. I encourage you to learn more about EPW here (even as I make myself the promise to read it more regularly for its unique insight and opinion). According to Outlook India, “The government usually reacts to most newspaper stories and editorials, but the EPW is in another bracket altogether. Its editorials go verbatim into government reports”.

Now, a plug for C. Ramanohar Reddy, EPW’s current editor.   In 2007, Outlook India named him to The Alternative Power List of 25 People Who Will Never Make it to the Power ListThe subtext of this list was: Thinking change in India is a thankless task. A few who are sticking it out for the greater common good.  Be sure to check out the rest of this awesome list.   (And oh yeah, it’s also pretty neat to be able to say that I happen to know him).

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

This post is a result of reading an article published in EPW on May 21st : Will They Return? Indian Students in the United States.  Many noteworthy points and specifics are included in the article. I merely present some interesting “macro-statistics” here.

First, it is based on a recent survey done with 1000 current and past Indian graduate students in the US.  The core question was to determine whether they plan to return to India, and if so (or if not), what their primary reasons for doing so (or not) were.  Note that 85% of the respondents were under 30 and 73% were male.

Interesting survey, wouldn’t you say?  Would you venture a guess as to what  some of their answers were?  Read on below.

Here are the high-level results from this survey –

  • The majority of the respondents, a whopping 74%, plan to return to India eventually (or had already done so)
  • 53% of the total sample planned to get work experience in the U.S.
  • Singles were less likely to return than married respondents
  • Over 75% wanted to return to jobs in the private sector; far fewer in public sector or politics
  • Most significant reasons for desire to return to India were:
      1. Family
      2. Desire to give back to motherland
  • Most significant deterrents to returning to India
      1. Corruption
      2. Red tape
      3. Academic work environment

[Do read more about this survey and the reasons for it here.   I have merely covered a few of the highlights].

2010 BCS Championship Game; University of Alabama versus U-Texas

What surprised me the most was the high percentage of people thinking of returning to India. In the “good old days” – I would say from the ’60s through to the early 2000s, many Indians who were based in the land of opportunity talked about returning, but they never did anything about it.  To me, it appeared to be more of an elusive and idealistic dream than a goal. Yes, of course, I know folks who returned (family being the primary reason why), but they were few and far between.

Now, curiously, it is trending in quite a different direction, at least amongst the college-going crowd.

P.S. My non-scientific prediction is that if a similar survey were given today to Indians who have been living/working in the US for say, more than 10 years,  the majority would answer that they do not intend to return, except to visit.

Your thoughts?


Photo of CMU:By Persage (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Football Photo By Bband11th (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons


Posted on June 24, 2011, in india, United States, youth and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Will I return for good? Yes, I will. Being retirement is closer than I ever thought it would be. With just one child who in a few years time will be on his own, I want to return to the sights, sounds and smell I grew up with. I want to be with the people I grew up with. I want to give back something to the community, contribute to make it a better place for the disadvantaged.
    I want to grow old with my friends and family. No retirement village for me here. I wont be waiting here for my son to visit me every Christmas nor am I going to be eating mashed potatoes and peas for lunch. No thanks !!!

    • I hear you! My feelings are still a bit different though. While I am in India, I am really enjoying the newness of living here again after so many years.

      But I cannot in all honesty say today that I will return to live here permanently. Life in the U.S. has become one where I truly feel most at home, while here I am still adapting (and being “wide-eyed”).

      My ideal would be to have one foot here and the other there. Don’t know if that is practical. But I feel that I will always have one foot in the US because of so many friends and family members being there. Many of my friends have resolved to live there; i don’t see them returning. However, I do see a trend in the ones who have gone there more recently; I don’t see them staying. Quite a difference!

  2. Shanthini Dawson

    Besides wanting to be close to family and give back to the motherland, intuitive young people are coming back to India because they see India as the land of opportunity, especially with the rate of economic growth surpassing most developed nations. Further with the opening up of India, to a radical change in life style – the so called MTV life style, the easily available and competitively priced consumer goods, its not hard to see why they would want to stay on in America. There are also those youngsters who are coming back to find their roots and enjoy the India of today.

    More power to them!

    • I agree; the youngsters left a very different India from the older immigrants when they went to the US. Those who left India in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s left because they saw the U.S. as the land of opportunity.

      In spite of visits back to the home land, it’s very difficult for them to really see the changes. They still see bad infrastructure, poor government services, power cuts, etc. when compared to U.S. where they are really well settled; the bad economy has impacted a lot of people but the majority of Indians who are in professional careers or business people in the US, remain less affected. That is why it is so difficult for them to imagine returning. It wasn’t until I had been living here a couple of months that I could really understand what it is really like and I know I still have a long way to go!

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