Anjali Kausar spotted just a handful of fellow Indian immigrants in 2004 when she sent her oldest son to a Cupertino Union School District science camp in California’s Silicon Valley. Last February, when she dropped off her youngest son, half the campers came from Indian families.
Asians grew faster than any race in the U.S. from 2000 to 2010, rising to 4.8 percent of the country’s 309 million residents, with Indians outpacing Chinese and all other Asian groups, according to census data. Cupertino, home to technology icon Apple Inc. (AAPL), is at the forefront of that explosion as Indians have surged 199 percent, many of them drawn by the public-education system and high-technology jobs.
“We’ve all been attracted to the schools there,” said Kausar, 42, a trustee for the district who lives in Saratoga. “It’s in the heart of Silicon Valley, and a lot of us work in the industry there. And we would like to live where we work.”
The expanding ethnic diversity of Cupertino is a reflection of the increasing might of emerging-market countries such as India and China, which grew the most last year among the world’s biggest economies.
“If you’re a 15-year-old Indian, you want to go to university and take a software degree because that’s the road to riches,” said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
‘Out of India’
“It’s also the route out of India,” Bloom said in a May 20 telephone interview. “If you want to work in America, one of the best options is to become an elite programmer and move to the U.S.”
Nationwide, the Asian population rose by 43.3 percent to 14.7 million in 2010 from 10.2 million in 2000, more than four times the total U.S. rate of 9.7 percent, according to census data. Asian Indians jumped 69.4 percent to 2.8 million from 1.7 million. The largest ethnic group, Hispanics, grew 43 percent and now accounts for 16.3 percent of U.S. residents.
The increase in the Asian population also was evident beyond California, with the highest growth rates in Nevada, North Dakota and Arizona. Asians continued to migrate outside coastal cities and large urban centers to fast-growing Sunbelt suburbs, according to a Bloomberg analysis of the census data.
In Alabama, manufacturing is driving the growth of the Korean population, which expanded by 102.1 percent to 8,320, spurred by the 2005 opening of a Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) plant in Montgomery, the state capital. Hyundai, South Korea’s largest carmaker, posted almost 100 Korean managers at the plant, said Robert Burns, a spokesman for Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama.
Sweet Home Alabama
The plant has drawn about 30 Korean suppliers to set up shop in Montgomery with Korean management teams, Burns said in a May 25 telephone interview. The population growth is transforming the community, the site of civil rights protests in the 1950s and ‘60s and the heart of the Bible Belt.
“As you drive around town you will now see, on a variety of churches, signs in the Korean language to advertise that they have a Korean service,” Burns said.
In Cupertino, the population shift mirrors a Silicon Valley trend as technology companies unable to find enough skilled workers in the U.S. are drawing talent from Asia.
Their demand for foreign-born workers comes as California’s unemployment rate sits above the 9.0 percent national rate at 11.9 percent in April, according to U.S. Labor Department data.
Skilled Workers Needed
“There’s a lack of the skilled workforce that they need here domestically,” said Emily Lam, senior director of federal issues and health care at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a San Jose-based public policy trade group representing more than 345 companies.
Three companies were responsible for most of the hiring of temporary skilled workers through so-called H-1B visas in Cupertino in fiscal 2009. Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) filed 418 applications for hiring H-1B workers, Apple submitted 316 and Symantec Corp. (SYMC) 170 out of a total of 1,071 filed for companies with employees in Cupertino, according to the Labor Department.
“From a company’s point of view, you want the best and the brightest,” Lam said. “And if most of your applicant pool is foreign born, then you’re going to need visas in order to hire them.”
Rachel Decker, a spokeswoman for Palo Alto, California- based Hewlett-Packard, the biggest personal-computer maker, and Cris Paden, a spokesman for Symantec, the world’s largest maker of security software based in Mountain View, California, declined to comment on their H-1B hiring. Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet also declined to comment.
Those born in India represented 48 percent of H-1B petitions approved in fiscal 2009, the largest amount of beneficiaries, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Half the graduates in the U.S. with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are foreign born, Lam said.
Their numbers are transforming Cupertino, the backyard of Apple, maker of the iPhone and iPad tablet computer and the world’s most valuable technology company. In the last decade, Indian businesses have sprung up around the city, and the annual Diwali Festival of Lights, a four-day celebration in India, has become a staple in the community since 2003.
Indians there increased to 13,179 in 2010 from 4,408 in 2000, driving the fastest growth rate among California cities that are majority Asian, census data show. Whites decreased to 17,085 from 24,181 in a city that now has 58,302 residents.
California has gone from having four Asian-majority cities with a population of more than 50,000 in 2000 to 10 in 2010. The growth has transformed the makeup of classrooms. Asians, including Asian Indians, represent 70 percent of classrooms in the Cupertino Union School District, said Kausar, the school district trustee.
Some white parents now consider the public schools too academically rigorous and are opting to enroll their kids in private schools, she said.
“What I hear from people is they think they’re too pressured,” Kausar said in a May 12 telephone interview. “They feel that it is too much focus on academics and not on the whole child.”
The demanding nature of the education system appeals to many immigrant parents.
“Indians coming from India, they’re told that Cupertino has the best schools,” said Mahesh Nihalani, 61, the first Indian to run for a seat on Cupertino’s city council in 2009. His two adult sons attended Cupertino schools.
While 15-year-olds in the U.S. ranked 25th among peers from 34 countries on a math assessment released in December, Cupertino-area schools consistently rank among the best in California.
The school district, which includes 20 elementary schools and five middle schools in Cupertino and five other Silicon Valley cities, had the state’s ninth-highest academic performance index, in 2010, according to California Department of Education data.
The large number of Indians drawn by those schools is reshaping the community. The California Cricket Academy started in Cupertino in 2003. Its newest playing facility at the Cupertino Library grounds is the only international-level pitch in Northern California, said Ajay Athavale, the academy’s president.
‘Passionate About Cricket’
“Indians are very passionate about cricket,” Athavale said in a May 17 telephone interview. “India just won the World Cup, so people want their kids to learn how to play to continue the tradition in the United States.”
The increase also is reflected in the area’s real-estate market. About 20 percent to 25 percent of Cupertino homes sold in March were bought by South Asians, a group that includes Indians and Pakistanis, at an average price of more than $1.2 million, said Tim Cornwell, a principal at the Concord Group in San Francisco, which researches the impact of demographics on the real-estate market.
“The groups that are moving into this market are extremely affluent,” Cornwell said. “They may want cricket fields, but we’re talking about people who are affording $1.2 million houses.”