This report summarizes available research on immigrant entrepreneurship in the U.S., supplemented by interviews with key experts in the field. The authors discuss the factors that spur the formation of immigrant businesses at a rate well in excess of that of U.S. natives, as well as some of the barriers that immigrants must overcome in order to achieve business success. The report laments the fact that the federal government and nongovernmental entities do not collect sufficient data on foreign-born entrepreneurs. Using available data sources, including the 2007 and 2012 Surveys of Small Business Owners, the authors find that immigrant-owned business are concentrated in three sectors: retail; accommodation and food services; and professional and technical services. Two reasons why immigrants gravitate to entrepreneurial work are their tolerance for risk, reflected in their decision to migrate, and difficulties in finding work that aligns with their prior professional training. In addition, the existence of ethnic networks built around shared values and relationships also helps to spur the formation of immigrant-led businesses. The report describes in detail some of the “hurdles” that immigrants must overcome in order to achieve business success, including the lack of a special visa category for entrepreneurial work and difficulties in accessing capital. The report gives examples of how some municipalities are recognizing the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs and developing new approaches and programs to help them overcome these hurdles.
Immigrant Entrepreneurship: Economic Potential and Obstacles to Success,
Bipartisan Policy Center, June 13, 2022, 66 pp.