Immigrant Small Business Owners: A Significant and Growing Part of the Economy


On June 14, the Fiscal Policy Institute released a study of immigrant small-business owners, together with co-releases by affiliates of the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative and the Economic Analysis and Research Network in a number of states around the country.

Observers around the country have noted the way immigrants have helped spur business activity in areas where there was little before—urban neighborhoods, suburban downtowns, and rural areas, as well.

And, the report helps explain why immigration does not lead to major displacement of US-born workers—at the same time as immigrants expand the labor pool, they also expand consumer demand, and they expand the number of businesses that hire people. The study is the first of its kind, using a methodology that allows us to distinguish people who own an incorporated business from people who are simply self-employed.

We don’t see immigrants as “super-entrpreneurs,” but we do recognize the important roles immigrants play in our economy.

As the country sorts through the Supreme Court’s mixed ruling on Arizona, one thing that’s important to remember is that immigrants are very much a part of local communities in numerous ways—including as local business owners. There are genuine challenges related to immigration that we ought to be addressing. Uprooting immigrants from communities, however, is no solution to our broken immigration system.

We hope it can help create the context for discussion of a more sensible and comprehensive approach to immigration reform.

The full report is here, together with additional data about Latino business owners and type of businesses for the top 10 countries of birth for immigrant business owners (Mexico, India, Korea, Cuba, China, Vietnam, Canada, Iran, Philippines, and Poland).

David Dyssegaard Kallick is senior fellow of the Fiscal Policy Institute, where he is also director of FPI’s Immigration Research Initiative. He has written about a wide range of social, political, and economic issues from Social Security to globalization.

Feature image courtesy of Adam Kuban via Flickr.