Big Surge in Number of Immigrants Who Are Small Business Owners

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. Twenty years ago, immigrants made up only 12 percent of small business owners.

Small business owners include those who own an incorporated business and whose main job is to run that business. While immigrants play a big role in tech-centric jobs, many of these immigrant businesses are your typical suspects: immigrants make up 37 percent of restaurant owners, 49 percent of grocery store owners, and 54 percent of laundry and dry cleaner owners.

"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 thereport. "I don't think immigrants are 'super-entrepreneurs,' but I do see that immigrants are playing an important and growing role across the American landscape. And it's not just traditional immigrant gateways, it's all around the country."

Some interesting findings in this report: Immigrant women are more likely than domestically-born women to be a business owner. Mexican immigrants are less likely than other groups to be business owners, but the U.S. has more business owners from Mexico than any other country. (Not surprising, since Mexicans are the country's biggest immigration population.)

"In some communities, we see a political climate that creates a hostile environment for immigrants," said Frank Mauro, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute. "This report shows that, as a country, we can't go down that path. With immigrants making up one in six of all small business owners, a climate that is hostile to immigrants is also a climate that is bad for business."