Immigrants and Small Business

July 1, 2012. An editorial from the New York Times. Excerpt:

Immigrants are known as entrepreneurial people, for obvious reasons: those with the ambition and energy to uproot themselves and build new lives in a distant land are well equipped to build businesses and the economy, too. That is the common wisdom, anyway, which a new study from the Fiscal Policy Institute strikingly confirms. The study, based on census data, looks at owners of small businesses across the country and paints a broad and detailed picture of immigrant entrepreneurship.

The study found that there were 900,000 immigrants among small-business owners in the United States, about 18 percent of the total. This percentage is higher than the immigrant share of the overall population, which is 13 percent, and the immigrant share of the labor force, at 16 percent. Small businesses in which half or more of the owners were immigrants employed 4.7 million people in 2007, the latest year for which data were available, generating $776 billion in receipts. They accounted for 30 percent of the growth in small businesses – those with fewer than 100 employees – between 1990 and 2010.

Immigrant entrepreneurs are concentrated in professional and business services, retail, construction, educational and social services, and leisure and hospitality. They own restaurants, doctor’s offices, real-estate firms, groceries and truck-transportation services. More of them come from Mexico than any other country, followed by Indians, Koreans, Cubans, Chinese and Vietnamese. California has the highest percentage of immigrants among small-business owners at 33 percent, followed by New York (29 percent), New Jersey (28 percent), Florida (26 percent) and Hawaii (23 percent).