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Almost 1 in 5 Small U.S. Businesses Owned By Immigrants

Immigrants own almost one of every five of the small businesses in the U.S., accounting for more than their share of the nation’s total population, according to a report by the Fiscal Policy Institute.

The study released today found that immigrants own 18 percent of businesses with fewer than 100 people working for them, while U.S. residents born outside the country account for 13 percent of the nation’s population, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey.

The number of small businesses climbed to 4.9 million in 2010, a 58 percent increase from 3.1 million in 1990, when immigrants owned 12 percent of such companies, the Fiscal Policy Institute found. They were responsible for 538,551 new small businesses during the two decades, or about one-third of the total created in that period, the Latham, New York-based research organization reported.

“I don’t think immigrants are ‘super-entrepreneurs,’” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the institute’s Immigration Research Initiative and author of the report. “But I do see that immigrants are playing an important and growing role. Immigrant businesses often bring new energy to the urban, suburban and rural landscape of America.”

The institute also found regional and national patterns, with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern people being more likely to own a small business than other immigrants. Sixteen percent of the Greek-born labor force owned a small business. Only 1 percent of Mexican immigrants were small business owners.

Motel Owners

Foreign-born entrepreneurs owned 28 percent of small businesses in the leisure and hospitality fields, the largest percentage of any broad industry. Immigrants constituted a majority of small taxi, dry cleaning and gas station owners. They also made up 43 percent of hotel or motel owners and 37 percent of restaurant operators.

Immigrants also operated a substantial share of doctors’ offices, owning 26 percent of the nation’s 143,433 physician offices.

Immigrant-owned small businesses appear to have rebounded from the 2007-09 recession. Their ranks fell to 842,000 in 2009, down from 868,000 in 2007 before rebounding to 900,000 last year.

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