Indian Americans are the most generous ethnic group in America, according to a national survey of charitable giving. The Gallup/USA Today survey found that Indian Americans donate, on average, 24 percent of their income, many of them feeding and educating entire villages in India.
"Not only are we the top money-earners, we are also the top money-givers," said a proud Niraj Joshi, president of the National Federation of Indian American Federations.
The survey's findings appear to contradict the stereotype that Indian Americans are cheap and miserly. But Joshi said the findings may in fact explain such perceptions. "Of course, we are cheap," he said. "We try to save as much money as we can, so we can give it to others."
Atlanta resident Susan Verghese seemed to agree with Joshi. "My mom and dad probably appeared stingy to a lot of people," she said. "They reused grocery bags in their trashcans, they stored food in empty yogurt and margarine containers, and they filled their kitchen drawers with hot sauce packets from Taco Bell. But after my dad passed away, I found out that he had been secretly sponsoring 1,000 underprivileged children in Kerala."
The survey has helped many younger Indian Americans understand their parents. "Now I know why my father insisted on driving a Toyota Camry," said New Yorker John Patel. "He wanted the cheapest car that he could fit the whole family into. Little did I know that he was building a school in Gujarat."
The survey found that the average Indian American family earns $78,213 and gives away $18,771 of it, about 52 percent to India, 26 percent to America, and 22 percent to Nigeria. "Nigerians are always sending me emails and I am always sending them money," said Miami businessman Sunil Ganapathi. "I always feel sorry for them."
Ganapathi was among several Indian Americans who were unhappy that the survey's results had been publicized. "If everyone knows we're generous, they're going to be asking us for money," Ganapathi said. "My phone won't stop ringing. The Salvation Army will put me on their speed dial."
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