MEDIA RELEASE: Report Breaks New Ground on Immigrant Businesses

One in six small business owners was born in another country

RALEIGH (June 14, 2012) – More than one in six small business owners in the United States is an immigrant, according to a new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative.

Immigrants make up 18 percent of all small business owners in the United States, the report said, while immigrants are 13 percent of the population and 16 percent of the labor force, according to the American Community Survey from 2010.That is a big change from the picture 20 years ago, when immigrants made up 9 percent of the labor force and 12 percent of small business owners.

The report shows that 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 – according to the Survey of Business Owners.

Small businesses are important to the American economy: overall, small businesses provide jobs for 30 percent of all private-sector employees. The report finds that immigrants are playing a big role among high-tech businesses, making up 20 percent of business owners in computer systems design. Yet, many of the types of businesses where immigrants are most highly overrepresented are more likely to be found on Main Street than in a technology park: 37 percent of restaurant owners are immigrants, as are 49 percent of grocery store owners, and 54 percent of people who own laundry and dry cleaners.

“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. “And it’s not just traditional immigrant gateways, it’s all around the country.”

James Parrott, chief economist and deputy director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, noted: “That immigrants are prominent among businesses ranging from doctor's offices to apparel factories, grocery stores and restaurants reflects the economic diversity and vitality of immigrant communities in the United States.”

“Small businesses are an important part of North Carolina’s economy and the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs should be recognized,” said Allan Freyer, analyst with the Budget and Tax Center, that is co-releasing the study in North Carolina today.

The report includes national data, information about the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and information about the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the country. Further data about North Carolina is available from the Budget and Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

The Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education organization committed to improving public policies and private practices to better the economic and social conditions of all new Yorkers. Founded in 1991, FPI works to create a strong economy in which prosperity is broadly shared. FPI’s Immigration Research Initiative looks at immigration issues in New York State, and around the country.


FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT AND NORTH CAROLINA DATA: Alexandra Forter Sirota, Director, Budget & Tax Center,, 919.861.1468; Allan Freyer, Public Policy Analyst, Budget & Tax Center,, 919.856.2151; David Dyssegaard Kallick, Senior Fellow and Director of FPI’s Immigration Research Initiative, 212-721-7164 (desk), 646-284-1240 (mobile).