Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
Immigrants of all races are more likely to be self-employed compared to their U.S.-born counterparts.
Minorities are more entrepreneurial than people give them credit for. Immigrants, in particular, are “a significant force in self-employment and in creating jobs,” according to a new Pew Research Center study of Census data.
Foreign-born workers are slightly more likely than U.S.-born ones to be self-employed in independent for-profit ventures. In 2014, immigrants made up a substantial chunk (19 percent) of the 14.6 million self-employed workers in the country. (For context: foreign-born workers make up around 17 percent of the U.S. workforce and are generally more likely to be employed than U.S.-born ones, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
The gap in self-employment between U.S. and non-native workers isn’t all that large overall. But a breakdown of self-employment numbers by race (in the chart at left) reveals that foreign-born immigrants in all racial groups overtake their native counterparts. White immigrants are the most likely to be self-employed at 17 percent, followed by Asian and Hispanic immigrants at 11 percent. Foreign-born Hispanic workers were almost twice as likely as native-born ones to work at their own business. On the other hand, only 5 percent of U.S.-born black workers were self-employed.
When it came to job creation, U.S.-born business owners were ahead—but only by a little. Twenty-four percent of native-born, self-employed workers had employees, while 22 percent of immigrants did.
Among all the races, Asian Americans (foreign- and U.S.-born) were most likely to create jobs. Thirty-one percent of self-employed Asian workers hired at least one employee in 2014, compared to 25 percent of white self-employed workers. In terms of absolute numbers, however, white self-employed workers hired 24 million people in 2014—83 percent of total hires by self-employed business owners. Asian entrepreneurs were second, employing 7 percent of total hires.