Despite making up just 13% of the overall U.S. population and 16% of the labor force, immigrants own 18% of the small businesses in the country, according to a new report by the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative.
Immigrants from India who own their own businesses total 62,526 owners, or 7% of the immigrant business owners in the country, second only to Mexico’s 105,247 (12%), according to the five-year estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (See Table 1).
The five leading business fields among Indian immigrant business owners are: physicians in private practice (8,959); followed by computer systems design firms (5,453); grocery store owners (5,284); operators of hotels and motels (4,644); and gasoline station owners (3,789) (See Table 2).
By contrast, Mexico-born businesses are topped by 8,986 restaurant owners and 8,911 landscape-service operators.
Korea is third for business ownership among the immigrant-born population at 6% (56,073). Leading businesses for Koreans are 7,409 restaurant owners and 5,995 dry cleaning and laundry operations.
Immigrants from Cuba (35,769) and China (34,181) complete the top five. Immigrant businesses owned by Chinese are mainly restaurants (10,861), followed in a distant second place by 1,274 real estate firms.
Vietnam-born business owners, in sixth place with 31,283, are dominated by nail salons (5,493), restaurants (2,979) and beauty shops (2,092).
Twenty years ago, when immigrants made up 9 percent of the labor force, they were only 12 percent of the small business owners.
The report breaks new ground by using Census data to study people who own an incorporated business, and whose main job is to run that business, the Latham, N.Y.-based Fiscal Policy Institute said.
The analysis is based primarily on the ACS, with additional data from the Current Population Survey. It also uses previously unpublished data from the Survey of Business Owners.
Among small businesses with fewer than 100 employees, those in which half or more of the owners were immigrants had $776 billion in receipts, and employed 4.7 million people — 14 percent of all people employed by small businesses.
“Immigrants are playing a particularly important role in the kinds of businesses that bring people into downtown areas and help enliven neighborhoods," said David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Fiscal Policy Institute's Immigration Research Initiative and author of the report.
“I don’t think immigrants are ‘super-entrepreneurs,’ but I do see that immigrants are playing an important and growing role across the American landscape. And it’s not just traditional immigrant gateways, it's all around the country."