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Growth or Stagnation? Opportunities and Constraints for Latinx Business Owners in the U.S.

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Entrepreneurship can provide venues for greater agency and opportunity in labor, but structural constraints may deter certain groups from pursuing entrepreneurship, driving them to modes of business ownership that may have the veneer of entrepreneurship but are really a result of a lack of good options in the job market. This dissertation seeks to examine this conundrum and has three main objectives: (1) to identify business types, (2) to determine whether those business types are associated with certain social groups, and (3) to closely examine Latinxs in two very different business contexts. Three studies examine each research objective. The first study uncovers configurations of business characteristics to identify distinct business types. The second study interrogates who is more likely to own one of two types of businesses – opportunity or survival enterprises. The third study investigates Latinxs in California and Texas – two contexts with high concentrations of Latinx-owned businesses – and compares how they fare relative to other racial and ethnic minority groups as it relates to business performance in opportunity and survival enterprises.

I rely on the Survey of Business Owners, a nationally representative survey of U.S. businesses, and clustering and regression approaches to examine these objectives. I find that inequality in human, social, and financial capital structure Latinx, Black, and women entrepreneurs’ entry into survival enterprises, which are less profitable business types. Asian and non-Hispanic White business owners are more likely to own business types with greater performance potential – opportunity enterprises. I also find business earnings disparities persist for more disadvantaged groups across business type and state context. Together, these findings suggest that mobility opportunities offered through entrepreneurship remain out of reach for the most marginalized members of the business community.

I apply an intersectionality framework to the study of Latinx entrepreneurship to understand how the intersection of multiple social identities influences opportunities and constraints for entrepreneurial success. I accomplish this by comparing business outcomes for Latinxs to other ethnic minority groups to identify divergent patterns in the role of human, social, and financial capital that may facilitate greater business performance. In addition, I stratify Latinxs by two salient dimensions – nativity and gender – to examine within-group differences and identify the potential mechanisms driving inequality in entrepreneurial success. I argue that, while no one entrepreneurial pathway predominates for racial and ethnic minority business owners, barriers to success through entrepreneurship nevertheless endure for marginalized groups.

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This item is under embargo until June 29, 2027.