Monday, February 26, 2018

Takers or Creators

By Matt Tarleton, Executive Vice President

Another week, another stalemate, another delay in deciding the fate of millions of past, present, and prospective future immigrants to the United States.

Without delving too far into the political sensitivities that surround the topic, it is fair to say that immigration can be an exceptionally divisive issue in this country, particularly when the conversation relates to jobs. Those who support more restrictive immigration policies often express concern that immigrants are “taking jobs” that would otherwise be filled by Americans. Many are quick to respond with a variety of counter-arguments related to skills gaps and the country’s prevailing workforce shortages that have emerged from an aging population coupled with low unemployment. As my colleague Alex Pearlstein pointed out: “With talent now the prized currency of economic development, the U.S. cannot become complacent in the belief that our incumbent population will be sufficient to support growth across industries technological and otherwise.”

Clearly a great deal of attention is appropriately paid to the manner in which immigration – legal and illegal – affects the workforce conditions of natural born Americans. We focus on their role and impact as employees in this country. What often gets lost in the conversation is the impact that immigrants and their children have as employers – job creators – in the United States.

Launched by Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, the Partnership for a New American Economy is a bipartisan coalition of more than 500 hundred mayors and business leaders that support comprehensive immigration reform. The Partnership has helped improve understanding of the role of immigrant sin our economy through numerous publications. Much of this research is also supported by data and analysis conducted by the Census Bureau and the Small Business Administration using information from the Current Population Survey and the Census of Business Owners. Collectively, this research and many other data points help illustrate that, by a variety of measures, immigrants and their children contribute to our nation’s economy as job creators at a considerably higher rate than their native born counterparts.

  • Despite accounting for just 13 percent of the population, immigrants now start more than 25 percent of new businesses in the United States.
  • Immigrants are also more than twice as likely to start a business as native-born citizens. The business formation rate per month among immigrants is 0.62 percent (or 620 out of 100,000) as compared to the non-immigrant rate of 0.28 percent.
  • From 1996 to 2011, the business startup rate of immigrants increased by more than 50 percent, while the native-born startup rate declined by 10 percent, to a 30-year low.
  • According to the National Venture Capital Association, immigrants have founded or helped to found 25 percent (88 out of 356) of all public U.S. companies that were backed by venture capital investors over the last 20 years.
  • Fortune 500: 43 percent of Fortune 500 firms and 53 percent of the Fortune Top 25 (13) were founded by immigrants or their children.
  •  More than 20 percent of the Inc. 500 CEOs are immigrants.
  • Companies founded by immigrants include Google (Sergey Brin, first generation from Russia), Tesla (Elon Musk, first generation from South Africa), eBay (Pierre Omidyar, first generation born in France to Iranian parents), and Intel (Andrew Grove, first generation born András Gróf in Hungary).
  • Companies founded by children of immigrants include: Ford (Henry Ford, second generation, son of an Irish immigrant), Apple (Steve Jobs, second generation, son of a Syrian immigrant), Amazon (Jeff Bezos, second generation, son of a Cuban immigrant).

This list could go on and on with statistics related to the contribution of immigrants to job creation in the United States. While you’re unlikely to find stronger advocates for policy predicated on evidence than those of us at Market Street, we don’t need rigorous accounting and econometrics to understand that the employment opportunities afforded to so many of us – our friends and family – are predicated upon the ingenuity and contributions of immigrants and their children. These are the same employment opportunities that economic developers and policymakers compete for aggressively. Cough. Amazon. Cough.