Over the past 20 years, legal immigrants have accounted for a strikingly large share of American entrepreneurs. Using data from the Pew Research Center and the Fiscal Policy Institute researching small business owners, the immigration blog Migreat built a great chart looking at which countries' natives are most likely to start businesses upon moving to the US:
The light blue columns indicate the rate of self starters among each ethnic group and the dark blue columns show the percentage of all migrant entrepreneurs each group accounts for.
Mexicans, Indians, Chinese, Koreans and Cubans make up the bulk of migrant entrepreneurs, with 35 percent. But the entrepreneurship rate among Greek, Israeli, Palestinian and Syrian immigrants was higher than other nationalities.
Over the last two decades, immigrant owned businesses have made up 30 percent of the growth in the small business economy, a significant chunk given that immigrants only account for 13 percent of the US population. Their businesses also performed better than your average American. Employees within these small companies earned over $55,000 a year over the median earned income of $41,000 a year, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute's report.
Despite this share of the market, these businesses tend to be smaller and are often confined to cities. The chart below illustrates how business ownership among immigrants varies between urban areas:
It's worth noting that there's not a single city on that chart where the foreign-born share of business owners doesn't exceed the foreign-born share of the population.
Of course, this data doesn't apply to children of immigrants. We do know they lead more financially secure lives than their parents, but a Babson College Report on global entrepreneurship says that second generation immigrants tend not to be self employed because of their increased familiarity with the country. First time immigrants, by contrast, often lacked the contacts necessary to gain employment from anyone but themselves.
Further reading: Danielle Kurtzleben explains why America's entrepreneurial spirit is dying.