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New Study on Immigrant Entrepreneurship Fails to take into Account the Value of All Immigrant Labor

LatinaLista — Brains over brawn.

High-tech versus service.

Skilled versus unskilled.

A new Duke University engineering study titled “America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs,” released today illustrates the extreme spectrum of immigrants who come to the United States to live and work.

On the one hand, we have immigrants like those from India who the study uncovered rank as the biggest group when it comes to starting tech companies. According to the report, of the 7,300 tech startups founded by immigrants – 26 percent were founded by Indians.

Indian immigrants founded more tech startups from 1995 to 2005 than people from the four next biggest sources – United Kingdom, China, Taiwan and Japan – combined.

Vivek Wadhwa

The study’s research team was lead by Vivek Wadhwa, not only a local North Carolina entrepreneur and founder of two tech startups, as well as, an executive-in-residence at the Pratt School of Engineering’s Master of Engineering Management Program, but himself an Indian immigrant.

The school issued a statement that they were releasing this study now to “bring new context to the nation’s immigration debate.”

They wanted to show Americans that there are other immigrants from non-Spanish speaking countries who also contribute immensely to the economic well-being and global competitiveness of the United States.

And they deserve to be recognized.

As Latina Lista has argued in the past, there are certain automatic assumptions made when the term “immigrant” is used – one of them being that the term refers to an undocumented Spanish-speaking person.

But only if Mr. Wadhwa had stopped there. He went on to say:

“It’s one thing if your gardener gets deported, but if these entrepreneurs leave, we’re really denting our intellectual property creation.

Even if he is talking about unskilled Hispanic immigrants, he obviously doesn’t know that they are as entrepreneurial as he and those that start high-tech companies.

Otherwise, he may have been aware of a report released by the US Census in March 2006 titled Survey of Business Owners: Hispanic-Owned Firms: 2002.

The report outlined how the number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew 31 percent between 1997 and 2002 — “three times the national average of ALL businesses.”

Among those businesses, 1,510 were Hispanic-owned firms with 100 employees or more, generating more than $42 billion in gross receipts.

Where Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese and British may have their forte in starting technology companies, Hispanics’ expertise lay in starting those companies that provide a service as well.

Yet, the bottom line is that the labor of every immigrant is of value to this country.

AnnaLee Saxenian, now dean of the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, and also co-author of the Duke study, said the research debunks the notion that immigrants who come to the United States take jobs from Americans.

“The advantage of entrepreneurs is that they’re generally creating new opportunities and new wealth that didn’t even exist before them,” Saxenian said. “Just by leaving your home country, you’re taking a risk, and that means you’re willing to take risks in business. You put them in an environment that supports entrepreneurship, and this is the logical outcome.”

Whether they’re a gardener or not.

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