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Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Israel, Canada and California

Abstract

Entrepreneurial activity has served as a route of economic advancement and social mobility for many of the more successful immigrant groups in their new host countries. In addition to varying ethnic resources, the formation of small-businesses by new immigrants depends greatly on characteristics of the host country and the specific urban area. Moreover, interaction of location and ethnicity factors may influence entrepreneurial behavior of immigrant groups; i.e. the role of location may differ for each immigrant group. This role of location has been given only cursory treatment in most previous studies of immigrant entrepreneurs.

This paper outlines the relation between theories of entrepreneurship among immigrant groups and studies on entrepreneurship in space. Then, it focuses on case studies of self-employment among recent immigrants in Israel, Canada end California, basing the analysis on national censuses of population from the early 1980s. Special attention has been put on the influence of location on the propensity of immigrants from various origins to engage in self-employment, and on the types of entrepreneurial activities performed by different immigrant groups. The influence of human capital attributes, ethnic networks and local opportunity structures on spatial variations in entrepreneurial behavior of immigrants is discussed.

Immigrant entrepreneurship is assessed in the context of changing realities of the 1970s and 1980s. These years witnessed a certain revival in the role of small businesses in job creation in many Western countries. A new role has been assigned to local entrepreneurs in public economic development efforts, replacing post-war strategies, based on capital-intensive industrialization (Storey 1988). International migration flows have also reemerged as a political and economic phenomenon of major importance, due to the passage of liberal immigration legislature in countries of destination during the period of economic growth and prosperity in the 1960's, and due to pressures in the countries of origin, aggravated by the economic crises of the 1970's and 1980's. Thus, the phenomenon of entrepreneurship among immigrant groups has a growing sugnificance in assessing local econimic development processes and social change.

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