As of 2019, there were 198,000 Nepalis living in the United States. Though this may sound like a large number, compared to other South Asian immigrant communities in the United States, this is actually relatively small. This smaller U.S. population is due to the fact that other South Asian countries, such as India and Pakistan, have much longer histories of immigrating to the U.S., whereas Nepali migration to the United States only began relatively recently.
The top U.S. metropolitan areas for Nepalis today are Dallas, New York, Washington, San Francisco, Baltimore, Boston, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Akron, and Chicago.
The top 10 states with the highest Nepali populations are Texas, New York, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Colorado.
Though the amount of Nepali immigrants in the United States is relatively small, it’s a diverse group, with a variety of Nepali ethnic and geographic backgrounds represented. The predominant ethnic subgroup among Nepali immigrants is the Bahun Chetris, who are of Indo-Aryan Hindu origins. Their ancestors are originally from the middle, hilly region of Nepal. The Newar people — the ethnic group indigenous to the Kathmandu valley — are also a predominant ethnic subgroup among Nepali immigrants to the U.S. Here’s a map of Nepal for reference:
Nepali-speaking Bhutanese, known as Lhotshampas, also make up a large number of Nepali immigrants to the U.S. Bhutanese Nepali speakers are Bhutanese citizens of Nepali origin, who fled Bhutan as refugees when the country began an ethnic cleansing of minority groups in the late 1980s. According to the UNHCR’s 2015 report, there are 84,000 Bhutanese Nepalese living in the U.S. today. Here’s where Bhutan and Nepal are in relation to each other:
Because a diversity of ethnic groups are represented among Nepali immigrants, a diversity of languages is represented as well. For example, though the national language of Nepal is officially Nepali, many Newar immigrants to the U.S. speak Newari. Other languages spoken in Nepalese American communities include Sherpa, Tamang, and Gurung, among many others. However, among Nepali immigrants in the U.S., most use Nepalese as their main language of communication within their communities.
Here are some links to clips of Nepalese people speaking the different languages of Nepal:
- Nepali – national language of Nepal, the most widely spoken in the country, Indo-Aryan in origin
- Newari – language spoken by the indigenous people of the Kathmandu valley, Sino-Tibetan in origin
- Sherpa – language spoken by the Sherpa ethnic group, Tibetan in origin, also spoken in Northern parts of India
- Tamang – language spoken in Nepal, Sikkim, West Bengal, and North-Eastern India, Sino-Tibetan in origin
- Gurung – language spoken by the Gurung ethnic group, Sino-Tibetan in origin
Above: the Nepalese alphabet being written out. Click here to learn more about the Nepali alphabet!
As of 2019, the Nepali American median household income was $55,000 a year, compared to the $85,800 median of all Asians in the U.S. and the $68,000 median of all Americans. 17% of Nepali Americans are at poverty or lower, compared to 10% of all Asians in the U.S. and 11% of all Americans.
Because the Nepali population in the U.S. is still relatively small, there aren’t many distinct Nepali enclaves in U.S. cities, such as Chinatowns in the case of Chinese immigrants or Little Koreas in the case of Korean immigrants. However, in Jackson Heights, Queens, there is an area that some people call “mini-Nepal,” which has Nepali restaurants, grocery stores, and more. Click on the images below to learn more about “mini-Nepal!”