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Immigrants and Small Business

The share of U.S. small businesses owned by immigrants has expanded by 50 percent since 1990, with almost one-fifth of business owners born outside the country. The number of foreign-born business owners has increased in tandem with the immigrant workforce. Immigrants made up about 9 percent of workers in 1990 and 12 percent of business owners with fewer than 100 employees, according to the report, which analyzed U.S. Census data. In 2010, the foreign-born share of the workforce had grown to 16 percent, and immigrants made up 18 percent of small business owners.

According to the New York Times, 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).

A new study from the Fiscal Policy Institut rousingly affirming the centrality of immigration in the American economy, the study exposes a fault line running through the Republican Party, which mythologizes small-business owners while treating immigrants with hostility bordering on fury. Something to think about.