Is immigration a form of entrepreneurship?

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Short answer:
  • Loosely defined, immigration itself can be seen as entrepreneurship.
  • Furthermore, studies suggest that immigrants are more entrepreneurial.

Some definitions of entrepreneur could include immigration[edit]

Immigrant entrepreneurship can be defined as the process whereby immigrants (i.e., individuals born in a given country, who subsequently moved to a different country at some point in their lifetime) identify, create, and exploit economic opportunities to start new ventures in their country of destination. Immigrants exhibit a consistently high tendency to initiate self-employment in the hosting countries. Immigration itself can be seen as a driving force for entrepreneurship.[1][2][3]

Studies suggest immigrants are more entrepreneurial[edit]

As per several studies, immigrants are perceived as being highly entrepreneurial and important for economic growth and innovation. This is reflected in immigration policies, and many developed countries have created special visas and entry requirements in an attempt to attract immigrant entrepreneurs. Migrant entrepreneurship can be used to enhance coexistence and sustainability at a community level. The latter has become increasingly vital in the globalized world of today.[4][5]

Studies suggest that immigrant entrepreneurs in a developing economy may be different from their counterparts in well‐established economies. First, immigrant entrepreneurs rely on their unique human and social capital in the process of starting businesses thanks to their ability to identify opportunities based on insider knowledge of the market in their home and host countries. Second, their ability to foster trusting relationships thanks to language, cultural, and religious knowledge permits immigrant entrepreneurs in an emerging economy to engage in less economically marginal activities.[6]

A study conducted by MIT economist finds that immigrants are about 80 percent more likely to find a firm, compared to U.S.-born citizens. Those firms also have about 1 percent more employees than those founded by U.S. natives, on average.[7]

A research paper published by Peter Vandor in Harvard Business Review found that immigrants were more likely to start businesses than members of the native population in most of the 69 countries surveyed. In the United States, where 13.7% of the population is foreign-born, immigrants represent 20.2% of the self-employed workforce and 25% of startup founders. And according to a 2018 study by the National Foundation for American Policy, immigrants founded or cofounded 55% of the United States' billion-dollar companies — so-called unicorns.[8][9]

Various studies and researches also emphasize notable examples of successful entrepreneurs such as Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post), Dietrich Mateschitz (Red Bull), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX), and Sergey Brin (Google). The studies prove that apart from their undeniable success as entrepreneurs, they all have one common characteristic: extensive cross-cultural experience. Huffington grew up in Athens and studied in London before starting her career as a politician and media entrepreneur. Mateschitz spent considerable time overseas as a marketing salesman prior to founding Red Bull. Musk migrated from South Africa to the U.S. as a young adult. Brin left the Soviet Union with his family after facing growing anti-Semitism and moved to the U.S., where he later cofounded Google.[10][11]

Cross-cultural experiences may increase individuals’ capabilities to identify promising business ideas. By living in different cultures, they encounter new products, services, customer preferences, and communication strategies, and this exposure may allow the transfer of knowledge about customer problems or solutions from one country to another. By applying this kind of arbitrage, a temporary or permanent migrant can decide to replicate a profitable product or business model available in one country but not in another. Successful companies such as Starbucks (inspired by coffeehouses in Italy) and the German online retailer Zalando (inspired by Zappos) exemplify the potential of this strategy.[12]


  1. "Immigrant Entrepreneurship" (PDF). Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  2. Shinnar, Rachel S.; Zamantılı nayır, Dilek (1 April 2019). "Immigrant Entrepreneurship in an Emerging Economy: The Case of Turkey". Journal of Small Business Management. pp. 559–575. doi:10.1111/jsbm.12408. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  3. "What is Immigrant Entrepreneurship | IGI Global". Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  4. "Migrant Entrepreneurship - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  5. Gaskell, Adi. "What It Is That Makes Immigrants Such Good Entrepreneurs?". Forbes. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  6. "What is Entrepreneur? Definition of Entrepreneur, Entrepreneur Meaning". The Economic Times. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  7. Lofstrom, Magnus Wang (12 June 2019). "Immigrants and entrepreneurship". IZA World of Labor. doi:10.15185/izawol.85. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  8. Vandor, Peter; Franke, Nikolaus (27 October 2016). "Why Are Immigrants More Entrepreneurial?". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  9. "effects-immigration-entrepreneurship-innovation". Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  10. Vandor, Peter (4 August 2021). "Research: Why Immigrants Are More Likely to Become Entrepreneurs". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  11. Malki, Bryan; Uman, Timur; Pittino, Daniel (1 March 2022). "The entrepreneurial financing of the immigrant entrepreneurs: a literature review". Small Business Economics. pp. 1337–1365. doi:10.1007/s11187-020-00444-7. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  12. "Study: Immigrants in the U.S. are more likely to start firms, create jobs". MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 29 September 2022.