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Migration, Citizenship, and DevelopmentDiasporic Membership Policies and Overseas Indians in the United States$

Daniel Naujoks

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780198084983

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198084983.001.0001

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(p.391) Appendix

(p.391) Appendix

Sample Selection, Methodology, and Interviewee Characteristics

Migration, Citizenship, and Development
Oxford University Press

(p.391) Appendix

Sample Selection, Methodology, and Interviewee Characteristics

This Appendix provides detailed information on major methodological issues related to the exploration of the key questions in this book. In particular, it explains the sample selection, and gives information on the structure and key characteristics of the conducted interviews. As fifty interviews form the fundament of this exploration, the composition of the interviewees, and their characteristics are important to understand and assess the results that are generated. For this reason, this Appendix concludes by presenting the socio-economic profile of the interviewees.

Preliminary Study, Sample Selection, and Access to the Field

Interviewees were sampled through a two-step mechanism. First, a database with key socio-economic characteristics of potential interviewees was set up. Access to the field and information on potential interviewees was provided by Indian professional and cultural associations,1 as well as through personal contacts. Additional suggestions for returnees to interview originated from informants during the field stage in the US and during the attendance of the government-organized diaspora conferences on Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2008 and 2009. In a second (p.392) step, interviewees were selected according to their profile characteristics (theoretical sampling). For a study on the policymaking process of the overseas citizenship of India, in the period 2006–8, I conducted forty-eight interviews with politicians, bureaucrats, representatives of civil society, academia, the media, and Indian diaspora organizations.2 Interviews with leaders of major Indian-American diaspora organizations focused inter alia on questions related to the study at hand on the effect of OCI on diaspora–homeland relations and concrete actions relevant for India’s development.3 The analysis of these interviews as well as the expectations and concerns expressed by experts and policy-actors who were involved in the process of adopting OCI legislation, provided the preliminary basis for theoretical sampling.4

There were two overarching criteria for the selection of interviewees for the sample. The first major sampling criterion was to choose individuals from groups that can be expected to be of particular importance to India’s development. Individualizing these groups was based on the conducted preliminary study, research literature on migration and development, as well as on the analysis of the socio-economic profile of the Indian community in the US.

This study suggests drawing special attention to highly skilled individuals. Highly skilled workers are often in decision-making positions in business or technology companies, which are believed to be of particular significance to development-related activities, especially in India.5 For (p.393) example, Indian taxi drivers in New York City are small in number,6 and, despite noteworthy exceptions, are generally of less importance to India’s development.7 Moreover, the analysis of the socio-economic profile of the Indian community in the US8 shows that a large share of ethnic Indians in the US is highly qualified. In fact in 2010, 70 per cent of ethnic Indians above 25 years had a college degree and 38 per cent even a graduate or a professional degree. Sixty-seven per cent of the employed Indian population above 16 years was working in management, professional, and related occupations.9 Thus, the majority of Indians resident in the US are highly qualified. For the special development potential of highly skilled persons as well as for the concrete educational and occupational composition of the Indian community in the US, this study focuses on professional migrants only.

The second goal of the sampling process was to obtain variations regarding the age, gender, sector of employment, immigration history, legal status, community involvement, and activities in India in order to diversify the obtained information. Sampling according to the principle of ‘maximum and minimum contrast’ was sought to discover similarities and differences among the interviewees. For sampling purposes, ethnic Indian interviewees were placed in three groups: (1) US citizens holding OCI or PIO card, (2) US citizens without OCI/PIO card, and (3) Green card and non-immigrant visa-holders. For a diverse selection, interviewees were then selected according to demographic and socio-economic (p.394) characteristics such as age, sex, first/second-generation migrant, regional origin, period of immigration, education, sector of professional activity, and so on.10

For interviews held at the TiECon2009 and the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (see below), contacting conference participants occurred randomly. The individuals were then pre-screened on the spot for their characteristics and interviewed immediately.

Interview Structure, Transcription, and Analysis

Bearing in mind the dangers of coming ‘to analytic sessions wearing blinders, composed of assumptions, experience, and immersion in the literature’ (Strauss and Corbin 1990: 75), I have prepared questions and complexes of issues because this appeared to be necessary owing to the complex topic and the limited time to assess interviewees. It has to be noted though that the in-depth assessment of theoretical categories in some of the chapters occurred after the interview process and, thus, in line with some of the basic tenets of Grounded Theory.

The interviews were open and to a large extent not formally guided. The interviews intended to understand openly how a status like overseas citizenship of India may affect a person’s behaviour, assessment, and identification, the general living conditions, in the US, or for returnees, living in India, ways of interacting with ‘India’, as well as the social structure of and the individual’s position in the Indian community in the US, both along professional, regional, linguistic, religious lines, and with regard to a pan-Indian character.

All interviews have been recorded with a small, non-intrusive digital voice recorder. While the interviews were still being conducted, information that had already been obtained was analysed, memoranda were written and new topics or threads of thought for the next interviews were included in the list of topics to be discussed. All interviews have been fully transcribed according to the notation rules of Conversation (p.395) Analysis, often referred to as the Jefferson system (Jefferson 2002). Thus, for the analysis, a naturalized transcription style was chosen, in which every utterance is captured in as much detail as possible and information was not overly filtered.11 For coding and analysing the transcribed interviews, the atlas.ti 6 qualitative research software was used.

Interview Characteristics

A total of fifty interviews with fifty-three individuals were conducted for this study. Three interviews were held with two individuals at the same time. In two cases, the two interviewees were spouses, in one case they were colleagues. Between April and June 2009, thirty-one interviews were carried out in the US, and between January and June 2009, nineteen interviews took place in India. In the US, most of the interviewees were conducted in Silicon Valley, California, but also in Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York City, and New Jersey. In India, three of the interviews were held at the Indian government-organized diaspora conference, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, in January 2009 in Chennai, two in Delhi, and the remaining fourteen in Bengaluru.

The longest and most valuable interviews were conducted at the interviewees’ homes or in a quiet, enclosed environment at their workplace. However, three interviews were taken at the 2009 diaspora conference Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Chennai and twenty-four at the annual convention of the professional organization, TiE, TiECon 2009, in California.

The average duration of interviews taken at the convention was fifteen minutes, ranging between five to thirty-five minutes. The average time for the rest of the interviews was forty minutes. All interviewees were informed about the anonymous use of the interview data and all agreed with the recording of their interviews. Two interviews were (p.396) conducted entirely in Hindi, the rest in English, often with smaller parts of the conversation in Hindi where interviewees had a Hindi-speaking background. Since the perceived characteristics of the interviewer matter (Singer et al. 1983; Hox and de Leeuw 2002), especially, but not exclusively, for questions related to ‘identity’ and ‘belonging’, it has to be noted that I, the interviewer, am not an ethnic Indian. However, my personal characteristics, which were known to the interviewees, reduced the likelihood of a strong bias in representing their ties to the US or their assessment of India and Indian policies. Since I am a migration researcher as well as a German, that is, not a US citizen, interviewees did not have to avoid making critical statements about the US or relating motives that were instrumental in obtaining US citizenship. Further, the interviewer is married to an Indian, has a high level of Hindi language skills and, at the time of the interviews, had been living in India for two years, all of which contributed to a trust relation during the interviews.

Interviewee Characteristics

As the interviews form the fundament of this research, the composition of the interviewees and their characteristics are important to understand and assess the results that are generated. For this reason, the socio-economic profile of the interviewees is described below. Statistical indicators, such as average or median age, years since emigration or return, and so on, will be used to illustrate the group properties and do not allude to a representativeness of the sample.

Table A1 provides an overview of the demographic characteristics of the interviewees. Twenty-two people or 41 per cent of the fifty-three interviewed individuals were women. The oldest interviewee was born in 1935, the youngest in 1983. Both the average and the median age of all interviewees were forty-one. As to the marital status, thirty-one interviewees were known to be married and one was in a long-term relationship. Of these, two were married to Caucasian (that is, White) American spouses, two to Europeans (German and French), and one to a US-born ethnic Indian. The remaining twenty-seven had India-born partners.

The ancestral communities and regional origin of the interviewees were quite diverse. Interviewees traced their communities from sixteen (p.397)

Table A1 Interview Characteristics: Demographic Information

Total no. of participants

53 interviewees

Age (36 of the interviewees)*

Total no. of interviews

50 interviews

Oldest interviewee

74 years**

Location of interviews

Youngest interviewee

26 years**


20 interviewees

Average=median age

41 years**


33 interviewees

Marital Status (36 of the interviewees)*



31 interviewees


31 interviewees

Indian spouse

27 interviewees


22 interviewees

Non-Indian spouse

4 interviewees

Notes: * The number in the brackets indicates the number of interviewees who have provided information on the question.

** Refers to the time of the interviews between January and June 2009.


Table A2 Interview Characteristics: Migration and Citizenship-related Information

Stay in the US (44 of the interviewees)*

Return to India (20 of 20 returnees)*

Longest stay

since 1968

Earliest return

in 2001

Shortest stay

since 2005

Latest return

in 2008

Median stay

17 years**

Average return

in 2005

Average stay

18 years**

Median return

in 2006

Citizenship & visa status (52 of the interviewees)*

Status in India of returnees (20 of 20 returnees)*

Born US citizen

4 interviewees

US citizen & OCI

14 interviewees

Naturalized US citizen

38 interviewees

US citizen & PIO card

3 interviewees

Green card-holder

9 interviewees

Indian citizen

3 interviewees

H-1B visa-holder

1 interviewee

Status in India of non-returned US citizens (25 of 25 non-returned US citizens)*

Average age at naturalization (27 of the interviewees)*

35 years


6 interviewees

Median age at naturalization (27 of the interviewees)

34 years

PIO card

2 interviewees


17 interviewees

Note: * The number in the brackets indicates the number of interviewees who have provided information on the question.

(p.399) states in India.12 Half the interviewees (26 people) were from south and west India, especially from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, including Mumbai, while a fifth of the sample (11 persons) had their ancestral roots in north India, especially in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. Other interviewees and their families originated in Assam, Kolkata, Gujarat, or Punjab. The distribution is relatively representative for the Indian community in the US, as the Survey of Asian Indians in the US (SAIUS) shows that ethnic Indians in the US with origins in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu have a significantly higher share in the Indian community in the US than these states in the total population in India (Kapur 2010: 79–80). Although religious affiliation was not a common question, some of the interviewees revealed that they were Tamil Brahmins, Hyderabad Muslims, or Jains, and in one case, Syrian Catholic. From the family names of the interviewees, it can be inferred that most of them belong to the Hindu community.13 Most interviewees said they were from a major city (Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai).

Migration- and citizenship-related information on the interviewees is given in Table A2. The interviewed person who is in the US the longest time came in 1968, the most recent arrival moved in 2005. The average stay in the US was 18 years (since 1990) and the median stay 17 years (since 1991). While four interviewees were born in the US and are thus US citizens by birth, 38 interviewees were former Indian and now naturalized US citizens. Nine individuals had a US green card, of which three had returned to India and another three were in the process of applying for US citizenship. One interviewee was on an H-1B visa and in the process of applying for legal permanent residence.14 In total, 20 persons had overseas citizenship of India in addition to their US (p.400) passport, and five individuals a Person of Indian Origin card.15 Of the OCI card-holders, four used to have a PIO card before converting it into OCI. Of those 27 individuals for whom both year of birth and year of naturalization were known, the average age of naturalization was 35, the median age 34.

Of the interviewees who had returned to India, the first to return had been living in India for eight years, that is, since 2001, and the latest returnee had moved just a year before the interview, in July 2008. The average return migration occurred four years ago. Among the 20 interviewees who had returned to India, the vast majority (14) had OCI status while three came on a PIO card. Only three returned as Indian citizens and none of the interviewees lived in India on an Indian employment or other visa. Out of the 25 interviewed US citizens who were resident in the US, six were overseas citizens and two were PIO card-holders while the remaining 17 had a simple visa status in India.

With reference to the educational characteristics of the interviewees, as given in Table A3, three interviewees reported having a doctoral degree, 24 a masters degree, and 12 an undergraduate degree as their highest achievement.16 Thirty-three interviewees had obtained their undergraduate degree from an Indian institution, five from a US institution and one from a third country (Belgium).

Among the five interviewees with US undergraduate degrees, two were US born. In 22 cases, the undergraduate degree was in computer science, in nine cases, in mechanical engineering or natural sciences, and in four cases, in fields related to business studies.17 Of the total 27 interviewees who provided information on their graduate education, only three obtained their degree in India, while 23 got their masters or PhD degree in the US and one in the UK. With 10 MBAs, the largest segment of interviewees went for business studies, while 6 interviewees did (p.401)

Table A3 Interview Characteristics: Educational and Professional Information

Highest educational degree (39 of all interviewees)*

Country of masters degree (27 of all interviewees)*


3 interviewees


3 interviewees


24 interviewees


23 interviewees


12 interviewees


1 interviewee

Country of undergraduate degree (39 of all interviewees)*

Field of masters degree (25 of all interviewees)*


33 interviewees


10 interviewees


5 interviewees

Computer Science

6 interviewees


1 interviewee

Mechanical engineering and natural sciences

6 interviewees

Field of undergraduate degree (33 of all interviewees)*


3 interviewees

Computer science

20 interviewees

Sector of employment (44 of all interviewees)*

Mechanical engineering and natural sciences

9 interviewees

IT and hardware related

24 interviewees

Business studies

4 interviewees

Business and Marketing

5 interviewees


4 interviewees

Finance and Venture Capital

4 interviewees

Other (film-making, journalism, community work, housewives)

7 interviewees

Notes: * The number in brackets indicates the number of interviewees who have provided information on the question.

(p.402) their masters in computer science, six in natural sciences or mechanical engineering and three in law.

Forty-four interviewees provided information on the sector they were working in. Of these, twenty-five were working in an IT or computer-related field, five in business or marketing, four in law, and the same number in finance and venture capital. Seven interviewees were in other occupations such as lifestyle journalism, movies, community services, or housewives (Table A3).


(1) These were The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE), Silicon Valley Indian Professionals Association (SIPA), Indian Community Center (ICC) in San Jose, and the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO).

(2) For a first overview, see Naujoks (2010a).

(3) Interviewees included leaders of organizations such as the GOPIO, National Federation of Indian American Associations, Indian American Center for Political Awareness, US-India Political Action Committee, and Indian National Overseas Congress.

(4) This is not to say that the perspective of policy-actors has been adopted for the sampling. This critical analysis of expectations and concerns provided the first opportunity to review possible development effects caused by diasporic actors and the eventual role of OCI, which generated a host of open research questions.

(5) As discussed in detail in Chapter 2, highly skilled migrants can be considered of particular importance for several of these factors affecting investment, trade, charity projects, and skill and knowledge transfer, among others. The low or unskilled labour migration to the Gulf is left aside since this is a special case.

(6) Based on census 2000 data, Schaller (2004) estimates that there were 5,300 New York City cab drivers of Indian origin, or 2.3 per cent of all drivers, while South Asians accounted for 6.8 per cent.

(7) This is the case despite notorious examples of cab drivers and petrol pump owners of Indian descent who have single-handedly funded schools and other development initiatives in their hometowns. Well-known is the story of Om Dutta Sharma who founded and funded a school in his native village—see New York Times’ article, ‘In New York, just a cabby, in India, a school’s hero’ of 23 January 2000.

(8) The analysis of the socio-economic profile is based on the 1990 and 2000 US Censuses, the American Community Surveys 2003 to 2010, detailed naturalization and immigration statistics as well as on research literature.

(9) Characteristics of persons self-identifying as ‘Asian Indian alone’ in the American Community Surveys 2010. For more information on the ethnic Indian community in the US, see Chapter 1.

(10) Further, the choice of interview localities, with an emphasis on Silicon Valley in California and Bengaluru, had an influence on the sample in that a high percentage of persons work in an IT or technology area. However, sampling was also done in New York City, New Jersey, and Los Angeles.

(11) Although Oliver, Serovich, and Mason (2005) rightly point out that Grounded Theory studies focus less on how interviewees communicate perceptions and more on the perceptions themselves, a more realistic picture of speech eases the understanding of those perceptions. Especially for questions regarding a person’s identification and how they relate to their host or home country, hesitations, pauses, non-speech tokens, and half-sentences may provide important clues for capturing the full meaning.

(12) The 16 states are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, New Delhi, Punjab, Sindh (today Pakistan), Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal.

(13) Kapur’s (2010: 67) Survey of Emigration from India (SEI) finds that 82.7 per cent of Indian emigrants to the US are Hindus, 10.0 per cent Christians, 3.8 per cent Muslims. The SAIUS shows that 72 per cent of the Indian American population is Hindu, 10 per cent Muslim, 5.1 per cent Sikh, and 4.8 per cent Christian (Kapur 2010: 77–8).

(14) Professionals holding at least a bachelor degree and working in a ‘special occupation’ can obtain a temporary H-1B visa, see Chapter 1.

(15) In addition, two interviewees had applied for OCI, one had announced that he would shortly apply for OCI, and one had been denied OCI.

(16) That does not mean, however, that the remaining 14 interviewees had no tertiary education. On the contrary, meeting those interviewees at the annual meeting of a Silicon Valley professional association (the TiECon 2009) justifies the assumption that most, if not all, of them had professional college or university degrees. Owing to constraints of time in the interviews, this information could not be gathered.

(17) In four cases, the field of the undergraduate degree is unknown.