Why America Is Still The Land Of Opportunity For Immigrant Entrepreneurs (And Why We Should Thank Them)
As we approach the Fourth of July holiday, it is important to remember that this country was founded on pursuit of freedom. On July 2, 1776, Congress voted to dissolve the connection between the Colonies and Britain, declaring them to be free and independent states.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
On the list of grievances against King George III in the Declaration of Independence was “cutting off our trade with all parts of the world.”
Among the freedoms achieved in the American Revolution was economic freedom. Indeed, the American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain success and that upward mobility is possible for everyone. The American dream is be achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance.
This is an attractive concept and has attracted people to this country for centuries. According to the Census Bureau, there are approximately 44 million immigrants in the United States, and about one in every eight U.S. residents (13.6%) is foreign-born. A study by Vox and the Centre for Economic Policy Research in 2017 stated that “population diversity is a crucial source of long-term prosperity in the U.S.”
Counties that attracted migrants from very diverse national and international origins over a century ago are significantly richer today than those that were marked by a more homogeneous population. Highly diverse counties after the Age of Mass Migration strongly benefited from the enlarged skillset and the different perspectives and experiences the arriving migrants brought with them and from the interaction among those different groups. The result was a surge of new ideas and a newfound dynamism that was quickly translated into lofty, short-term economic gains. These gains proved durable and, albeit in a reduced way, can still be felt today.
The Population Diversity and Economic Impact Report concludes that the large, positive, and persistent impact of societal diversity on economic development seen in the U.S. “would be difficult to replicate” elsewhere (in countries with more homogenous populations).
Additionally, Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Creating Jobs and Strengthening the Economy, a 2012 study, found that Immigrant entrepreneurship in the United States creates new wealth and jobs. While many people are familiar with the success stories of immigrants, such as Elon Musk and Sergey Brin of Google, few realize just how many immigrants have started new businesses. Studies have found that immigrant entrepreneurs have founded or co-founded more than a quarter (25.3%) of all science and technology firms in the U.S. Immigrant entrepreneurs in tech and other fields have also revitalized neighborhoods, generated local jobs, and enabled businesses to grow internationally.
Immigrants, including myself and my brother, Ramit, have come here because it is a place where someone can start a business in a garage and create a multi-million or even billion dollar enterprise. In fact, an estimated 45% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, among them are America’s top companies, including tech giants Amazon (Jeff Bezos), Apple (Steve Jobs), Google (Sergey Brin) and Tesla (Elon Musk).
“We should allow the world’s most creative entrepreneurs to stay in our country. They are going to contribute and succeed somewhere—why shouldn’t it be in the United States? America’s prosperity has always depended on the hard work, sacrifice, drive, and dreams of immigrants. Our future will depend on them even more,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in 2012.
Immigrants often move into low-rent neighborhoods that have little economic activity and deteriorating physical conditions. Many establish businesses as an alternative to working at low-wage jobs, usually within 3 to 10 years after they arrive in the United States. These businesses are typically small to moderate in size and include real estate firms, restaurants, food stores, nail salons, and gift shops. Many of these businesses offer retail or personal services needed by neighborhood ethnic groups, according to a 2005 report entitled Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Neighborhood Revitalization.
Further, the National Foundation for American Policy Brief in 2016 (Immigrants and Billion Dollar Startups by Stuart Anderson) reported that immigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70% (62 of 87) of these companies. The research finds that among the billion dollar startup companies, immigrant founders have created an average of approximately 760 jobs per company in the U.S.
Another reason why America is the Land of Opportunity is because of the assistance that is readily provided to immigrant entrepreneurs, including:
- The SBA’s the 8(a) Business Development (Federal Contracting) program designed for economically and socially disadvantaged business owners to work with the federal government.
- The Wilson-Fish (WF) program, which provides assistance and social services to refugees.
- The Minority Assistance Development Agency, a federal agency committed to the “growth and global competitiveness of minority-owned businesses.”
- State Minority Business Grants
While it may feel at this point in time that America is divided more now than seemingly ever before, it is important to realize what makes this country great. Here, one can rise above circumstances and through ingenuity, hard work, planning and investment capital, rise to the highest heights.