Pakistani Diaspora Thriving in America
By Riaz Haq
Nearly half a million people of Pakistani origin call America home. Their education and income levels are significantly higher than those of the general population of the United States. Among them are doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, journalists, politicians, business executives, professional sports team managers and owners, artists, actors, entrepreneurs, salespeople, policemen, soldiers, convenience store clerks and taxi, bus and truck drivers.
United States is the fifth most popular destination for Pakistani-born international migrants and the sixth largest source of remittances to Pakistan. In addition to participating in local philanthropy and community activities, several Pakistani-American organizations help raise funds for schools, hospitals and other human welfare projects in Pakistan.
Over 450,000 Pakistani immigrants and their children live in the United States as of 2013, according to a report compiled by Migration Policy Institute. Of these, 273,000 were born in Pakistan and the remaining 180,000 are US-born. Pakistani-American population has more than doubled in the last decade due to increased immigration, according to US Census data.
Pakistani-Americans (population 450,000) are the seventh largest community among Asian-Americans, behind Chinese (3.8 million), Filipinos (3.4 million), Indians (3.2 million), Vietnamese (1.74 million), Koreans (1.7 million) and Japanese (1.3 million), according to Asian-American Center For Advancing Justice . They are still a minuscule fraction of the overall US population.
Source: Migration Policy Institute
Education and Income Levels
56% of Pakistani-Americans have at least a bachelor's degree, much higher than 33% of Americans with college degrees. Among Pakistani-American college grads, 33% have a bachelor's degree while 23% have master's or PhDs.
Median annual income of Pakistani-American households is $60,000, higher than the $50,000 median household income of all Americans. 33% of Pakistani-American households earn at least $90,000 while 18% earn more than $140,000.
Pakistani Doctors in America
Pakistan is the third biggest source of foreign doctors who make up a third of all practicing physicians in the United States, according to OECD. Vast majority of Muslim doctors in America are of Pakistani origin. Among them is Dr Mark Humayun who was awarded the top US medal for technology by President Barack Obama in 2016.
About 30% of the 800,000 doctors, or about 240,000 doctors, currently practicing in America are of foreign origin, according to Catholic Health Association of the United States. Predictions vary, but according to the American Association of Medical Colleges, by 2025 the US will be short about 160,000 physicians. This gap will most likely be filled by more foreign doctors.
As of 2013, there are over 12,000 Pakistani doctors, or about 5% of all foreign physicians and surgeons, in practice in the United States. Pakistan is the third largest source of foreign-trained doctors. India tops with 22%, or 52,800 doctors. It is followed by the Philippines with 6%, or 14,400 foreign-trained doctors. India and Pakistan also rank as the top two sources of foreign doctors in the United Kingdom.
Pakistanis in Silicon Valley
The Silicon Valley is home to 12,000 to 15,000 Pakistani Americans. Thousands of them are working at Apple, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Intel, Oracle, Twitter and hundreds of other high-tech companies from small start-ups to large Fortune 500 corporations. Pakistani-Americans are contributing to what Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee describe as "The Second Machine Age" in a recent book with the same title.
A representative sample of Pakistani-American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley
Pakistani-Americans are the largest foreign-born Muslim group in San Francisco Bay Area that includes Silicon Valley, according to a 2013 study. The study was commissioned by the One Nation Bay Area Project, a civic engagement program supported by Silicon Valley Community Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, Marin Community Foundation and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.
Overall, US-born Muslims make up the largest percentage at 34% of all Muslims in the Bay Area, followed by 14% born in Pakistan, 11% in Afghanistan, 10% in India, 3% in Egypt and 2% each in Iran, Jordan, Palestine and Yemen.
Pakistani-American entrepreneurs, advisers, mentors, venture capitalists, investment bankers, accountants and lawyers make up a growing ecosystem in Silicon Valley. Dozens of Pakistani-American founded start-ups have been funded by top venture capital firms. Many such companies have either been acquired in M&A deals or gone public by offering shares for sale at major stock exchanges. Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN) has become a de facto platform for networking among Pakistani-American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. It holds an annual event called OPEN Forum which attracts over 500 attendees.
Entertainment and Sports
Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani-American actor-comedian, recently made news with the successful release of his feature film The Big Sick on hundreds of screens across the United States. It is a cross-culture romantic comedy based on actual events that breaks new ground by casting a brown-skinned Pakistani-American in a lead role in a movie produced and widely screened in the United States. Acquired by Amazon Studios for $12 million after a bidding war at Sundance film festival, the film has already grossed over $36 million so far.
Shahid Khan, a Pakistani-American engineer who made his multi-billion dollar fortune in auto industry, became the only non-white owner of an NFL franchise team when he bought Jacksonville Jaguars for $760 million in 2011.
Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers franchise general manager is a Pakistani-American named Farhan Zaidi, an MIT and Berkeley-educated economist.
Kamala Khan is a new Ms Marvel comic book character created by Pakistani-American Sana Amanat for Marvel Entertainment. Kamala is both female and Muslim. It is part of the American comic giant's efforts to reflect a growing diversity among its readers.
Academy Award winning Hollywood hits Frozen, Life of Pi and The Golden Compass have one thing in common: Each used extensive computer-generated imagery (CGI) created by Pakistani-American Mir Zafar Ali who won Oscar statuettes for "Best Visual Effects" in each of them.
Rockefeller Foundation-Aspen Institute Diaspora (RAD) program identified 79 Pakistani-American organizations. Of these, 5 organizations had revenue exceeding $1m while two had over $200,000 in their most recent fiscal year. The top organizations are The Citizens Foundation (TCF), the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent in North America (APNA) and the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN). Other large organizations are American Pakistan Foundation, Imran Khan Cancer Foundation and Human Development Foundation (HDF). These organizations help raise funds for education, health care and other development and human welfare activities in Pakistan.
Some Pakistani-Americans, like members of other ethnic and religious minorities, are alarmed by the increasing bigotry in America lately. This is particularly true of places like New York's Little Pakistan where Pakistanis were targeted after 911 terrorist attacks. At the height of the sweep, over 20,000 people in Brooklyn’s South Asian communities left the United States, a COPO survey found, according to Gotham Gazette, a New York City publication. Many sought political asylum in Canada and Australia, and some returned to Pakistan and other countries. A number of them never returned. Many had their legitimate US immigration applications pending at the time. Others had their cases in immigration courts and they were waiting for disposition by judges.
With a few exceptions, most Pakistani-Americans, making up a tiny fraction of the US population, are thriving.