ARBOR WEALTH: Huddled masses: The power of immigrant entrepreneurs

Published: Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 08:51 AM.

Our son’s college roommate’s family is from India, where the boy’s father attended medical school. The doctor and his wife immigrated to the U.S., where he now practices and provides employment for others. His wife is an accountant. Both pay into Medicare and Social Security and both pay income taxes. The doctor pays business payroll and unemployment insurance taxes as well. The couple also paid tuition bills to American universities. My son’s roommate is also becoming a physician and the young man’s brother an engineer.

Immigration is a fascinating and controversial issue, fraught with economic overtones. Various regions of the country harbor different feelings about immigration, depending on their local experiences. Current studies show that immigrants, owing to their entrepreneurial efforts, are serving as significant job creators in the modern American economy.

My own mother and father are classic examples of immigrant entrepreneurs. Born and raised in Limerick and Dublin, Ireland, respectively, they immigrated separately to Canada, met and married, and settled in Chicago. My father labored with the carpenter’s union. My mother originated several successful businesses.

My parents bought property in and eventually moved to Florida, where they opened an Irish import business. The enterprise provided gainful employment for many and is still in operation. They paid into Medicare and Social Security, paid payroll, corporate and income taxes, and as consumers, were contributors to our country’s GDP.

Theirs is not an unusual story. In fact, according to a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute, it’s becoming even more common today. The study reveals that the immigrant share of U.S. small businesses has risen from 12 to 18 percent in the last 20 years. 

“That translates into more than one in six small business owners in the U.S. being immigrants,” says Mark Koba, a senior editor at, “even though they make up just 13 percent of the overall population.”

“It’s not that they are ‘super entrepreneurs’ or anything, but they do come here as risk takers as they pull up roots from their own country and look for a fresh start,” says David Dyssegaard Kallick, senior fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute and main author of the report.

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