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Each year, Inc. Magazine lists what they call the “Inc. 500,” which is a list of America’s fastest growing privately owned businesses. I highly recommend reading the stories of these entrepreneurs — they are very inspirational.
What stuck out to me about this year’s list is that at least 55 of the 500 business owners were not born in the US. Their companies employ more than 14,000 and contributed in excess of $1.36 billion to the economy last year.
Every census taken from 1880 to 1990 revealed that immigrants were self-employed significantly more than American-born natives. The number of immigrant entrepreneurs in 2005 was 350 out of 100,000, compared to 280 of 100,000 for those born on American soil. Clearly, there is something to be said about “the land of opportunity.”
There have been numerous studies into the dynamics of immigrant entrepreneurs, many reaching the conclusion that immigration has “strengthened the entrepreneurial drive” within our nation, contributing to the surge of small businesses over the last few decades.
The Driving Force Behind Immigrant Entrepreneurship
Why are immigrants more likely to start their own business? There are a number of reasons. Consider the risk it takes to pick up everything and move to a country where the majority of people don’t even speak your language. Immigrants deal with a high rate of uncertainty in that alone, so starting their own business would comparatively seem but a moderate risk.
There is also the factor that many immigrants face numerous struggles and frustrations in the large business work force, as they are often paid unfairly and required to work uncommon hours. This often leads immigrants to seek other options, which typically includes starting their own business, as they recognize that they can offer a variety of products and services that many other entrepreneurs cannot.
It is often stereotyped that immigrant businesses are usually small “mom-and-pop” restaurants or dry-cleaners, but the options for many immigrants has vastly expanded in the past few decades. Those who moved to the US to obtain a higher education, rather than flee oppression, account for a number of the successful immigrant entrepreneurs in our country. It is estimated that up to 25% of Silicon Valley firms were established by immigrants.
Immigrant communities also tend to provide a strong degree of support for each other. First generation immigrants, who made their living with the “mom-and-pop” businesses, tend to push their children to explore other professions, such as legal or medical professions. Others may take new immigrants in under their wing, providing apprenticeships so that the newcomers can either take over the business or start successfully on their own.
There have been numerous studies into the perceived benefits or disservices of immigrant entrepreneurs, but, with so many differing opinions, little definitive information has been established. Some find them to aid the economy, while others find them to be exclusive and harmful. Questions remain without answers.
So, what are your thoughts? What, if anything, do immigrant businesses contribute to our economy? Our society? How many jobs do they create? What sort of jobs? Do they aid in foreign trade?
Please share your opinions on these or any other issues regarding immigrant entrepreneurs.
Source / Related Readings:
• Carnegie Endowment: Immigrant Entrepreneurs
• Inc.com — Inc.500: The Immigration Debate
• Business Journal: Immigrant Entrepreneurs Reaching Higher
• Inc.com: Immigrant Entrepreneurs Outpace Native-Born Americans
The Negative Position:
• VDare.com: Less Benefit Than They’re Cracked Up to Be
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