The Samprajña Institute will conduct a survey of marriage among members of the Hindu community living in the United States and Canada in order to better understand some of the demographic changes that are taking place within this community.
Marriage among Hindus in the United States, who are otherwise known as Hindu-Americans, is a subject that has received little study. This has two negative consequences: One consequence is that Hindu-Americans stand significantly outside of American policy-making where decisions are made about resources to be provided to families. Another consequence is that Hindu-Americans themselves do not receive the benefit of scientific research that could help them make better decisions about themselves and their community.
Firstly, Hindu-Americans for the most part are not recognized in American policy-making. The U.S. Census and most other governmental organizations in the United States do not collect data on people’s religious affiliations. Thus groups like Hindus, for whom religion is a major marker of identity, become all but invisible to American policy makers. “Almost all of the focus on how Western state policies affect contemporary non-Christian groups has been on Muslims with the consequence that groups like Hindus have been completely ignored,” observes sociologist Prema Kurien. This means that Hindu-Americans and their family needs have been virtually shut out of the American policy-making process. Scientific studies focused on the Hindu-American community could make Hindu-Americans more visible to American policy-makers.
Secondly, Hindu-Americans have their own concerns that scientific research could help address. For example, interracial, or exogamous, marriage is a specific aspect of marriage that is of wide concern to Hindu-Americans. Some studies suggest that exogamous marriage rates may be as high as 66% of all Hindu-American females (and 54% for males), but those studies tend to aggregate all persons of Asian origin into a single category, whether they are from the Far East or happen to be Indian Hindus or Muslims. Although such figures themselves are uncertain, they nevertheless fuel concern over what are very real issues at a personal level. When negative anecdotes are shared within a community, they can become community issues as well, and the actual facts may come to be distorted. Scientific studies could bring community issues into better focus and thereby help individuals and community leaders make better, informed decisions about them.
In order to aid the Hindu-American community’s inclusion in public-policy decision-making and to help the community better investigate issues of concern to the Hindu community itself, the Samprajña Institute aims to conduct a survey on the state of marriage among Hindu-Americans. The study will investigate the rates and characteristics of both exogamous marriages and endogamous marriages. Questions closely related to marriage involve child-rearing, family structure, and resiliency of the marriage itself (such as marriage’s dark twin, divorce) must also be considered in such a study. Depending on interest and available finances, the study may be expanded to include Hindus living in Canada, or Hindu-Canadians.
To this end, the Samprajña Institute invites proposals from experienced researchers for the design and implementation of the study.
All proposals must include the following:
- Name of researcher, his or her credentials (CVs and professional experience), and contact information.
- A descriptive outline of the study in all its phases from beginning to end.
- A time-line for the project, broken down into each phase and any sub-phases.
- A list of requirements at the start of each phase and a list of measurable deliverables that are to be remitted to the Samprajña Institute at the completion of each phase.
- A list of projected expenses, broken down by phase, including remuneration to be paid to the researcher.
- A list of professional and/or academic references for the researcher and their contact information (phone and email).
Also, the total duration of the survey in all its phases, from beginning to end, is not to exceed 180 days. Proposals will be adjudicated in terms of their clarity, economy, credentials, and experience.
Please remit all proposals in Rich Text Format (*.rtf file) to the following email address: secretary-at-samprajna.org with the subject line “North-American Hindu Marriage Survey” without quotes. All questions about the survey must be remitted to the same email address.
 Prema A. Kurien, “Multiculturalism and ‘American’ Religion: The Case of Hindu Indian Americans,” Vol. 85, No. 2, Dec. 2006, Social Forces 16 Jun. 2011 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/4494937>.
 Samuel Huntington, Who Are We? (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004) 298.
Romantic love and marriages based on that ideal are highly transient things. In asking whether humdrum marriages that lack the romantic spark are good for children, marriage researcher Elizabeth Marquardt answers affirmatively and observes that two-thirds of divorces come from low-conflict families.
Mainstream Hindus in American society don't always keep close track of the cultural trends in mainstream American society, or cultural trends in the other major ethnic groups. But it's probably time that changed, since trends that affect all other ethnic and cultural groups will eventually affect Hindu-Americans. A recent article from Yahoo News describes how out-of-wedlock births among practically all major racial groups in America have skyrocketed since the 1960s. It would be far-fetched to believe that the Hindu-American community will not eventually be dragged along with the rest.
The black community's 72 percent rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of Native Americans were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent.
This issue entered the public consciousness in 1965, when a now famous government report by future senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan described a "tangle of pathology" among blacks that fed a 24 percent black "illegitimacy" rate. The white rate then was 4 percent.
Many accused Moynihan, who was white, of "blaming the victim:" of saying that black behavior, not racism, was the main cause of black problems. That dynamic persists. Most talk about the 72 percent has come from conservative circles; when influential blacks like Bill Cosby have spoken out about it, they have been all but shouted down by liberals saying that a lack of equal education and opportunity are the true root of the problem.
Jesse Washington, "Blacks struggle with 72 percent unwed mothers rate," 6 Nov. 2010, Yahoo! News, 7 Nov. 2010 <http://news.yahoo.com/...>
Of course, the 17 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate for "Asians" lumps in a lot of different groups; out-of-wedlock births among Hindu immigrant families from India may in fact be considerably lower. But the point of the article is that for other groups it had in fact been much lower at the onset of the 1960s and has skyrocketed since then. For example, the "white rate" of out-of-wedlock births is cited in the article as being 4%. (Note, this figure of 4% as of the 1960s is too low. About that time, it was according to government data around 10%, but the point is still valid--for whites and for other groups it was much lower than it is today.)
Since every other racial and immigrant category in the United States has at one time or another jumped on the "illegitimacy" bandwagon, the Hindu-American community will probably do likewise. This also means that if something pre-emptive is to be done about it, Hindu-Americans will have to start talking about it not only within the community but with others outside the community, too.