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Immigrants Are More Likely to Be Entrepreneurs

A new study shows conclusive evidence that immigrants are more likely to start new businesses. And those businesses make significant contributions to U.S. economic activity

I published a research report back in 2006 showing that over 50 percent of Silicon Valley engineering and technology startups were founded by immigrants (as were 25 percent of such startups nationwide), I concluded that immigrants were more likely to be entrepreneurs. Most of the feedback I received was extremely positive. But I also took fire from a few well-known open-immigration policy opponents, including professor Norm Matloff of the University of California at Davis, who said that large existing immigrant populations in tech centers skewed the results of my survey of 2,054 companies.

Matloff has argued, in academic listservs and in a volley of e-mail exchanges with me, that all things being equal, immigrants are no more likely to start businesses than U.S. citizens and permanent residents. He says this is particularly true in Silicon Valley, because immigrants comprise about 50 percent of the population. Therefore, his argument goes, immigrants really only displace entrepreneurs who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents, rather than augment the total number of startups and add real economic value.