Immigrant “Main Street” Business Owners Playing an Outsized Role

Manny Gonzalez, owner of Manny's Tortas, Midtown Global Market, St. Paul

January 14, 2015. Immigrants are a little more likely to own businesses than their U.S.-born counterparts, but they are a lot more likely to own Main Street businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, and barber shops, finds a new study released today by the Fiscal Policy Institute and Americas Society/Council of the Americas. Immigrants make up 16 percent of the labor force and 18 percent of business owners, but 28 percent of Main Street businesses (defined as retail, food services and accommodation, and neighborhood services such as nail salons, beauty shops, and gas stations).

“These are types of businesses that don’t often get a lot of attention from economic development officials. But anyone thinking about economic growth should pay attention: these businesses play a big role in neighborhood revitalization, and they can be an important economic step up for entrepreneurs,” says David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Immigration Research Initiative at the Fiscal Policy Institute and author of the report.

The report includes data on the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country, and focuses in depth on three case studies that hone in on ways state and local government can help make the most of of immigrant entrepreneurship: Philadelphia, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Nashville.

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