Immigrants Dominate Small-Business Ownership In New York City

Nearly half of all small-business owners in New York City are immigrants, according to a new report by the Fiscal Policy Institute's Immigration Research Initiative.

That number increases dramatically when the focus is turned on small businesses that aid in residents' daily lives. According to the study, immigrants own 84 percent of small grocery stores, 69 percent of restaurants and 63 percent of clothing stores. The trend continues into other industries like construction and engineering, which cite 62 percent and 40 percent ownership, respectively. In total, 48 percent of business owners in the Big Apple are immigrants.

The study, which collected data between 2005 and 2009, also reflects the reality that many immigrants operate in industries with low wages and poor working conditions, such as dry cleaning and laundry and taxi and limousine services, which both cited 90 percent immigrant ownership.

The numbers seem high, but in New York City's cultural melting pot, immigrants make up 36 percent of the total population and 46 percent of the labor workforce. In fact, 44 percent of the city's population between ages 16 to 44 years old are immigrants.

"New York benefits enormously from the rich array of small-business owners who are immigrants," David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of Immigration Research Initiative, said in a statement.

In New York City, the leading countries producing small-business owners include China -- which cites the highest rate at 9 percent -- Dominican Republic, Korea, India, Italy, Greece, Columbia, countries of the former Soviet Union, Israel and Palestinian Territories and Jamaica. The distribution is varied, however, as 55 percent of immigrant small-business owners come from countries not listed in the top 10.

The business-ownership process for immigrants is often laden with regulations, posing a time-consuming challenge to those wishing to start or invest in a business in the United States.

"I would say to states that are creating an environment that is increasingly hostile to immigration: Look what you're giving up," Kallick noted. "Immigrants can be an important part of a healthy and diverse economy."