chapter  9
10 Pages

The many faces of immigrant business

The literature on ethnic or immigrant entrepreneurship1, an increasingly popular subfield in race and ethnic relations, grew out of a larger concern with economic achievement and mobility of immigrants and racial minorities in advanced industrial societies. Two observations from these analyses emerged: first, the confinement of immigrants and minorities to the secondary labour market, and their subjection to what economists call ʻsuperexploitation ʼ (Hill 1980); second, the disproportionately high representation of foreign-born persons among the selfemployed. In the former observation, immigrants, on the basis of ethnicity or race, suffer from blocked opportunity or, simply, a racial disadvantage. In the latter case, the somewhat contrary suggestion is that migration and immigration give immigrants a sociological advantage in the form of an internal ethnic cohesiveness and collectivism, which appears to be conducive to doing business. These two observations of course are not unrelated to each other. Faced with a disadvantage, immigrants may turn it into an advantage; blocked opportunity opens up new, alternative opportunities. Precluded from entry into the mainstream capitalist economy, immigrants respond by creating their own capitalism (Portes 1981: 297). The greater the disadvantage, the greater the incentive for change (Light 1984: 198).