The Huffington Post
By: Alexander Eichler
May 8, 2012
There are still plenty of entrepreneurs in America. But more and more of them are actually coming from somewhere else.
Immigrants were twice as likely to start a new business last year as someone born in the U.S., CNN reports. That's in spite of a weak economic climate that seems to have had a flattening effect on the number of overall businesses being created.
But actually, the economic downturn of the past few years is what may have helped drive so many immigrants to go into business for themselves, multiple reports suggest.
Many people who come to the U.S. seeking work end up in low-paying industries -- like construction -- that are vulnerable to recession, according to CNN. So when times get tough, it's people from those sectors who are more likely to turn entrepreneurial. For the same reason, entrepreneurship is reportedly up among high school dropouts, for whom it may be harder to advance along traditional career paths, according to a researcher interviewed by Bloomberg earlier this year.
That can help explain the jump in immigrant-owned new businesses since the recession hit. In 2008, immigrants represented about 17 percent of all new business owners in the U.S., according to The Washington Post. By 2011, immigrants were creating 28 percent of all new businesses, CNN reports.
And these new businesses are likely generating a lot of jobs in a variety of areas. In recent years, immigrant-owned businesses have been spreading out from traditional urban hotspots like Los Angeles and New York City. And as of 2008, immigrant-owned businesses were generating about $67 billion of the country's annual $577 billion in business income. In addition, almost half of the top 50 start-ups in the U.S. were founded or co-founded by immigrants.
In spite of these strides, critics of U.S. immigration policy contend that it's still unnecessarily difficult for immigrants to create new businesses, and that the law could be reformed in a way that makes it easier for entrepreneurial immigrants to stay in America and foster job creation -- a particularly important question at a time when twelve and a half million Americans are still out of work.
Even those immigrants getting by doing farm work have proved useful to the U.S. economy, if some of the farmers that employee them are to be believed. "We just can't find American people to do the work," Steven Tarbet, chief financial officer of Flying H Farms, told the Idaho Statesman.