The Impact of Immigrants on American Businesses

By: Margaret Nollau

A study by the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI), which focused only on legally incorporated businesses, found that the percentage of small businesses owned by immigrants has risen from 12% in the 1990’s to 18% today. This means that more than one in six small businesses in America is owned by an immigrant, despite immigrants encompassing only 13% of the overall U.S. population.

The increase in immigrant-owned businesses means an increase in American jobs and income. This report by the FPI estimated that immigrants employ 4.7 million American workers and create $776 billion in revenue. Most immigrant business owners are in the professional and business service sector (141,000), followed by retail and construction (120,000 each), educational and social services (100,000), and leisure and hospitality (100,000). Furthermore, most of the owners come from Mexico, with India in second, then South Korea, Cuba, China, Vietnam, Canada, and Iran.

Scholars say these immigrants are not “super entrepreneurs,” but they are risk takers for leaving their countries of origin in the first place, and it may be necessary to sustain themselves in a new country. Many of these immigrants have college degrees from their home countries, but American employers typically do not recognize such degrees. Therefore, they must start businesses themselves. This paves the way for others of the same nationalities to come and follow in their respective footsteps, which explains why many Dunkin Donut restaurants are owned by Indians, for example.

Current United States immigration law only allows for 140,000 immigrants to enter the country annually for permanent residency, although studies show there are nearly 1 million foreign nationals waiting to immigrate to America. Immigration remains a hotly contested issue in America today: many Americans believe immigrants come to the United States and steal jobs from them. The author of this study argues to the contrary; that immigrants come to America as consumers and entrepreneurs which stimulate, and improves, our economy.


Mark Koba, How Immigrants Are Changing US Businesses, CNBC, September 4, 2012.

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