Sikh American Legal Defense Fund and the Sikh Survey

Photo by Mohammad Bagher Adib Behrooz on Unsplash

Back in December of 2019, I had written about Governor Cuomo’s Veto of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I wrote that with the intention of highlighting the importance of having data sets available to non-profit organizations that need to understand how many more resources we need to understand where we stand on the issues and what we focus our attention on in order to address people’s needs.

The last known count of Sikhs was conducted on August 6th, 2012 by the Pew Research Center. This was a day after the Oak Creek, Wisconsin attacks They find that:

Conrad Hackett, Demographer, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life: Because the U.S. Census Bureau does not ask Americans about their religious affiliation, there is no definitive answer to this question. Estimating the size of small religious groups based on survey data is difficult, and estimates of the Sikh population vary considerably. For example, the 2012 Statistical Abstract of the United States cites an estimate of about 78,000 Sikh adults in 2008, based on the American Religious Identification Survey. The World Religion Database at Boston University estimates there are about 280,000 Sikhs in the U.S., based on estimates of the number of Punjabi immigrants from India and Pakistan and an assumption about the proportion of them who are Sikh. The 2010 Religious Congregations & Membership Study does not include a count of individual Sikhs but finds there are 246 Sikh congregations (gurdwaras). The Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group, says there are more than 500,000 Sikh Americans but does not cite a source for that figure.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s 2012 survey of Asian Americans, which was conducted in several Asian languages as well as in English and involved interviews with more than 3,500 Asian Americans, found that about 1% of Asian American adults identify themselves as Sikhs. In addition, U.S. census figures indicate that Asian Americans make up about 5.5% of the total U.S. adult population. Combining the Asian American survey data (on Sikhs as a percentage of the U.S. Asian population) with the census data (on Asian Americans as a percentage of U.S. adults) yields an estimate that there are about 140,000 Sikh adults in the U.S. With the addition of children (based on the ratio of adults to children among Asian Americans as a whole), the estimate would rise to approximately 200,000 American Sikhs of all ages. This estimate is based on the assumption that the vast majority of Sikhs in the U.S. are of Asian origin — an assumption supported by various studies, including Princeton University’s New Immigrant Survey. However, given the difficulty of surveying both small religious groups and new immigrants, the 200,000 figure should be considered a rough estimate and more likely a floor than a ceiling.

Since the eight years that have passed since this information, Sikh community groups have been doing a much more aggressive outreach in Gurdwaras and other places that our community gathers.


What counters this trend of not being able to identify how many Sikhs are living in America (and being able to have a accurate count of Sikhs in America) is the fact that in this year’s count of EVERYONE living in the United States, Sikh Americans can identify themselves on the survey. This isn’t really talked about that much in Census outreach efforts and could definitely hurt the accurate count of Sikhs in America.

California-based Sikh advocacy group Jakara Movement first raised this as something we should look out for on the Census.

They have further dedicated more effort and outreach getting Sikhs counted.

The organization also put out a Punjabi language flyer with information about how to fill out the census and why it matters to participate and also what is at stake if we don’t fill it out.

National Sikh Survey

Credit: SALDEF

My interest was piqued when I saw this post on the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, wherein theres a chance to talk about of the unique issues that Sikh Americans in the United States face.

Some concerns I have when it comes to the questions on this form are that:

  • They mention “Abortion Policy” when it actually should be Reproductive Justice for people with a uterus.
  • Leaves out questions about whether or not Sikhs feel like they have advocacy resources for being disabled.
  • Doesn’t ask about LGBTQIA+ Sikhs.
  • Leaves out mentions of being able to find ways other than police to find help within the community to deal with issues that may arise.
  • Asks about homeownership which is a capitalist ideal and not a reality for many people across the country.
  • Doesn’t mention ask about the student loan crisis.
  • Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence and other traumas are left out of the discourse.
  • The political affiliation categories are either Conservative or Liberal and doesn’t take into account Left-leaning people (who are certainly not Liberal).

Given that this is the first of it’s kind survey I can’t give SALDEF too much grief about this. But it is important in today’s “Woke” world to be able to connect with everyone outside the traditional binary.

When it is safe to have Nagar Kirtans again, we need to make sure that we have every resource pertaining to domestic violence to rent relief at these religious observations and when the community gathers en masse to provide them a way to get connected to what is happening around them.

Access the Survey Here:

The survey closes soon! So it is better to fill it out so that in addition to Census efforts, we can make sure that SALDEF has a more accurate count of Sikhs and can advocate for our issues. But they can only do it if they know what we need. This survey doesn’t ask about undocumented status.

New York Sikhs Get Counted

As I previously wrote about the South Richmond Hill rally that took place in Smokey Park, we certainly have been present in every space that our community can see Census outreach efforts. During the week of Census action last week, the Mayor of New York City personally went to Little Punjab and conducted door to door canvassing with other advocates to encourage South Queens to get counted.

As of right now, South Queens faces an undercount.

Here are also some pictures that came from the outreach efforts by New York City Census 2020 and New York City Mayor’s Office.

Undercounting in Census would mean that New York State gets less money from the federal government and that Congressional seats would be lost if we don’t have an adequate measure of who is living in our city what they need.

You can visit the Census website today to make sure your family is counted. The stakes are too high.




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Navjot Pal Kaur

Navjot Pal Kaur

Kaur Republic has now transitioned to Substack. Please follow us there to become a monthly or yearly subscriber:

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