Report shines light on role of immigrant-owned small businesses

Immigrants are moderately more likely to be business owners than their non-immigrant counterparts, but they are dramatically more likely to be owners of Main Street businesses — grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores and other enterprises that are key to neighborhood growth and vitality, a new report released Wednesday by Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA) and the Fiscal Policy Institute has found.

In metropolitan Miami, immigrants make up 47 percent of the labor force and 46 percent of all business owners but 54 percent of the Main Street business owners, the study found. Immigrants owning Main Street businesses also earn less than their non-immigrant counterparts, $33,000 vs. $46,000.

Nationwide, immigrants make up 28 percent of Main Street business owners, a level well beyond their share of the labor force or overall business ownership, which stand at 16 and 18 percent, respectively.

Using figures from the U.S. Census, the American Community Survey, and the Survey of Business Owners, the report Bringing Vitality to Main Street: How Immigrant Small Businesses Help Local Economies Grow finds that between 2000 and 2013, immigrants were responsible for all of the net growth in Main Street business nationally as well as in 31 of the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. In 2013, Main Street immigrant business owners earned $13 billion.

Immigrant entrepreneurs also make up 64 percent of all Main Street business owners in the Los Angeles metro area, 61 percent in metro San Jose and 56 percent in metro Washington, D.C.. The study includes all immigrants, documented and undocumented.

“These are types of businesses that don’t often get a lot of attention from economic development officials and don’t have huge profits. But they play a big role in neighborhood revitalization, and they can be an important economic step up for entrepreneurs,” said the report’s author, David Dyssegaard Kallick, senior fellow and director of the Immigration Research Initiative at the Fiscal Policy Institute.

Find the report here and an interactive map here.

Nancy Dahlberg