California Leads U.S. in Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Study Finds
When Gloria Suen opened a retail shop in Chinatown, she and her sister knew so little English they could barely decipher the rules and regulations that govern small businesses. But she asked advice from anyone who would listen and persevered.
“In those days, I had to work 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” she said. “I had to, little by little, learn.”
Today her family-owned small business, Li Hing of Hong Kong, sells ornate Chinese antiques and fine crafts to businesses and homes across the U.S.
Li Hing is part of a movement pushing California to the forefront of a national trend: The state leads the nation in the percentage of businesses owned by immigrants, a share that exceeds the demographic’s proportion of the general population.
One-third of small-business owners in the state are immigrants, according to a report published Thursday by the Fiscal Policy Institute, a New York-based think tank. About 27% of the state’s population was born in a foreign country, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Los Angeles has the second highest concentration of immigrant small business owners among metropolitan areas — 44%, one percentage point behind Miami. Immigrants make up 34% of the greater Los Angeles population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The most common countries of origin for immigrant small business owners in the greater Los Angeles area are Mexico, Korea, Iran, Taiwan and Vietnam, said David Dyssegaard Kallick, of the Fiscal Policy Institute.