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Ethnic enterprises and community development


Ethnic enterprises are growing rapidly in urban areas across the United States. Anecdotal evidence from around the country reports many success stories of how ethnic businesses transform communities; however, researchers have not provided a systematic review of the role of ethnic businesses in community developing. In practice, ethnic businesses have not been formally incorporated in local planning and development process. This article provides a systematic review of the multi-faceted ways ethnic businesses contribute to community building and neighborhood development. In addition to surveying the current literature, we also chose three communities for a focused review: Buford Highway in Atlanta, Monterey Park in Los Angeles, and Sunset Park in New York. A framework is developed to evaluate the economic, physical, social/cultural, and political effects that ethnic businesses exert on communities. We find that ethnic businesses can serve local economic interests and community-level cohesion and accrue economic, social, physical, and political benefits to their respective communities. These include serving the unmet market needs of certain neighborhoods and households, creating job opportunities and generating revenues, revitalizing and fueling the commercial development of abandoned communities, organizing and promoting social life and cultural diversity, as well as contributing their collective interest and voice in local communities. We argue that ethnic businesses should be better incorporated into urban policies in community economic development.

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  1. 1.

    Ethnic enterprises are used interchangeably with minority owned businesses and refer to Asian-, Black-, and Hispanic-owned enterprises. According to Yinger (1985), ethnic entrepreneurs are business owners or self-employed workers whose group membership is tied to a common cultural background (Zhou and Cho 2010).


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Correspondence to Qingfang Wang.

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Liu, C.Y., Miller, J. & Wang, Q. Ethnic enterprises and community development. GeoJournal 79, 565–576 (2014).

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  • Ethnic businesses
  • Community development
  • Neighborhood change