Press Release: SAAPRI Releases 2013 Reports

Press Release: SAAPRI Releases 2013 Reports

Press Release: SAAPRI Releases 2013 Reports



Ami Gandhi, South Asian American Policy & Research Institute
Phone: (773) 373-9750 / E-mail:
Rekha Radhakrishnan, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago
Phone: 773 271-0899 x 215 / E-mail:


Chicago, IL – As part of a joint effort to understand and more effectively address the growing South Asian American population in Illinois South Asian American Policy and Research Institute (SAAPRI) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago (Advancing Justice-Chicago) released a demographic report titled, “South Asian Americans in Illinois: Making Data Count”. The report captures some of the challenges faced by the community including the growing issue of limited English proficiency and lower than average rates of per capita income. With about two-thirds of the community being United States citizens, the community is increasingly interested in having a voice on issues of concern, ranging from immigration to health care. The large number of South Asian American eligible voters in Illinois indicates the potential for political empowerment, but it also indicates the need for civic engagement.

There are currently more than 242,000 South Asian Americans in Illinois, a 55% surge from 2000 to 2010, with much of that extensive growth coming from the suburban six-county area. Indian Americans are the state’s largest Asian American ethnic group and other South Asian Americans include people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, and Nepali descent. As detailed in the report, there are many disadvantaged segments among South Asian Americans who could benefit from policy reform and advocacy efforts, in collaboration with other immigrants and communities of color. For example, in Illinois, South Asian Americans have a lower per capita income ($26,567) than the overall population ($28,782). About 85% speak a language other than English at home and about one in four South Asian Americans speak English less than very well, serving as a barrier to accessing social services, courts, hospitals, and polls. Furthermore, South Asian American females are about twice as likely as males to have less than a high school education.

With Indian Americans being the second largest immigrant group in the Midwest, second only to Mexican Americans, the complexity of the South Asian American community should be considered during discussions of immigration reform and integration. “We celebrate the successes and contributions of South Asian Americans in Illinois while acknowledging the ongoing barriers that our community faces. This report empowers us with facts and data, so that we can address the unmet needs of vulnerable members of our community,” said Ami Gandhi, executive director of SAAPRI.

With the growth of South Asian Americans comes increasing interest in understanding the social and economic challenges facing South Asian Americans along with their political leanings. SAAPRI, Advancing Justice – Chicago, and the Pan-Asian Voter Empowerment coalition also released a report titled “Asian American Community Engagement Project – Voting Trends and Access in 2012,” based on in-person exit polling during the 2012 Illinois primary and general elections. Grounded in community-based research, the report discusses the opinions and experiences of Asian American and South Asian American voters in Chicago and the suburbs. The report provides crucial insights on voter behavior, issues of importance when selecting a candidate, and forms of civic engagement beyond voting. About 80% of respondents noted that they were born outside of the United States and that English was not their first language. Over 20% of South Asian American voters who responded understood English less than very well, but only about 7% used a translated ballot or bilingual poll worker, even though assistance in Hindi, Gujarati, and Urdu is now required by law in Chicago and Cook County.

“This report reflects our community’s distinct perspectives on the political issues and civic engagement challenges facing us today, and it will form the basis of an ongoing dialogue about addressing these challenges” said Kathleen Fernicola, policy and program director of Advancing Justice – Chicago.

The reports are available at and

Advancing Justice-Chicago, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, has a mission to empower the Asian American community through advocacy, by utilizing education, research, and coalition building. SAAPRI ( is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established in 2001 to improve the lives of South Asian Americans in the Chicago area, by using research to formulate equitable and socially responsible public policy.