Despite Skepticism and Misinformation, Hispanic Immigrants Thrive as Knowledge Workers and Entrepreneurs
For millions of Hispanic entrepreneurs, employees and business owners, the current shrill and misinformation-filled discourse on American immigration policy is disappointing. Opponents of policies that favor Hispanic workers and business owners have focused exclusively on illegal immigration and “border security” without making any effort to court hardworking Americans of Hispanic descent. In this contentious, vitriolic political climate, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the historical contributions of Hispanic business owners and anticipate future trends for Latino/a workers and entrepreneurs.
Hispanic small business owners and employees have played different but complimentary roles in the American business ecosystem. A recent study from the respected Kauffman Foundation showed that Hispanic entrepreneurship in the United States has increased at a faster rate than entrepreneurship within the general population. Today, Hispanic-owned businesses generate more than $500 billion in direct economic activity and account for nearly a third of all immigrant-owned businesses. They’re especially active in Sun Belt states with robust Hispanic communities, including:
Recent immigrants often start their U.S. careers as employees at Hispanic-owned businesses. Over time, they attain positions of greater responsibility and build up their personal savings. Eventually, they become business partners with their employers or begin their own businesses. Their children and grandchildren enjoy prosperous middle-class lives and wide-open opportunities. This rose-colored approximation of the American Dream isn’t a fantasy: Despite tremendous challenges, it plays out this way for thousands of hardworking families each year.
The current furor over Hispanics’ contributions to the American small business community is worth comparing to past dust-ups between immigrant populations and “established” American interests. Like the Irish and Italian immigrants who came before them, today’s immigrants have proven that integration, assimilation and economic success are all possible in a challenging economic environment.
According to a recent Pew survey, second-generation immigrants score far higher than their parents on key metrics like educational attainment, income, homeownership and more. In fact, the study concludes that second-generation Hispanics enjoy standards of living and socioeconomic statuses that are roughly in line with those of the U.S. populace as a whole.