Immigrants Play a Disproportionate Role in American Entrepreneurship

Immigration is one of the most divisive and polarizing topics today. Do immigrants take American jobs, or help our economy grow? Do immigrants drain our welfare funds, or can they help refill public coffers as our baby boomers retire?

One argument you tend to hear in the immigration debate in the U.S. is that there is a fixed number of jobs in the economy — and immigrants just compete for a slice of the pie rather than helping the pie grow. This perspective is less prevalent when talking about startups, however, because the rate of entrepreneurship has declined significantly in the U.S. over the last 30 years, and fewer startups are being generated today.

With many places looking to stoke economic growth, state and local governmentshave clamored to launch initiatives to attract more immigrant entrepreneurs, hoping they will found businesses and create more jobs. Globally, many countries are doing the same — for example, Chile pays overseas entrepreneurs to come visit for six months through its Start-Up Chile program, as a way to build global bridges and foster an entrepreneurial culture at home.

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