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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
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).
Acs, Z. J. (2007). Entrepreneurship, economic growth and public policy. Small Business Economics, 28(2–3), 109–122.
Aldrich, H. E., Carter, J., Jones, T., McEvoy, D., & Velleman, P. (1985). Ethnic residential concentration and the protected market hypothesis. Social Forces, 63(4), 996–1009.
Appold, S. J., & Kasarda, J. D. (2004). Building community through entrepreneurship: lessons from the United States and Vietnam. In J. Butler & G. Kozmetsky (Eds.), Immigrant and minority entrepreneurship: Building American communities (pp. 61–84). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Barrett, G., Jones, T., & McEvoy, D. (1996). Ethnic minority business, theoretical discourse in Britain and North America. Urban Studies, 33(4–5), 783–809.
Barrett, G., Jones, T., & McEvoy, D. (2003). United Kingdom: Severely constrained entrepreneurialism. In R. Kloosterman & J. Rath (Eds.), Immigrant entrepreneurs: Venturing abroad in the age of globalization (pp. 101–122). Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers.
Bates, T. (2006). The urban development potential of black-owned businesses. Journal of the American Planning Association, 72(2), 227–237.
Bonacich, E. (1973). A theory of middlemen minorities. American Sociological Review, 38(5), 583–594.
Bonacich, E., & Appelbaum, R. P. (2000). Behind the label: Inequality in the Los Angeles apparel industry. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Boston, T. D. (2006). The role of black-owned businesses in black community development. In P. M. Ong & A. Loukaitou-Sideris (Eds.), Jobs and economic development in minority communities (pp. 91–118). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Boston, T. D., & Ross, C. L. (1996). Location preferences of successful African American-owned businesses in Atlanta. The Review of Black Political Economy, 24(2/3), 337–357.
Bowles, J., & Colton, T. (2007). A world of opportunity. New York City, NY: Center for an Urban Future.
Butler, J. S. (1995). Entrepreneurship and the advantages of the inner city: How to augment the Porter thesis. Review of Black Political Economy, 24(2/3), 39.
Camarota, S. A. (2012). Immigrants in the United States, 2010: A profile of America’s foreign-born population. Washington, DC: Center for Immigration Studies.
Crane, R. & Manville, M. (2008). People or place? Revisiting the who versus the where of urban development. Land Lines, 20(3), 2–7.
Econsult Corporation. (2009). Commercial corridors: A strategic investment framework for Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
Fairlie, R. W. (2004). Does business ownership provide a source of upward mobility for Blacks and Hispanics?. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Fairlie, R. W. (2008). Estimating the contribution of immigrant business owners to the US economy. Washington, DC: Office of Advocacy, Small Business Administration.
Headd, B. (2010). An analysis of small business and jobs. Washington, DC: Office of Advocacy, Small Business Administration.
Hum, T. (2002). Asian and Latino immigration and the revitalization of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In L. Vo & R. Bonus (Eds.), Contemporary Asian American communities: Intersections and divergences (pp. 27–44). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Hum, T. (2003). Mapping global production in New York City’s garment industry: The role of Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s immigrant economy. Economic Development Quarterly, 17(3), 294–309.
Hum, T. (2010). Planning in neighborhoods with multiple publics: Opportunities and challenges for community-based nonprofit organizations. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 29(4), 461–477.
Hunt, A. (2009). Wholesale changes as Doraville eyes future. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved from http://www.ajc.com/news/wholesale-changes-as-doraville-2287.html.
James, F. J., Romine, J. A., & Zwanzig, P. E. (1998). The effects of immigration on urban communities. Cityscape, 3(3), 171–192.
Kenney, M., & Patton, D. (2005). Entrepreneurial geographies: Support networks in three high technology industries. Economic Geography, 81(2), 201–228.
Leeman, J., & Modan, G. (2010). Selling the city: Language, ethnicity and commoded space. In B. R. E. Elana Shohamy & Monica Barni (Eds.), Linguistic landscape in the city (p. 182). Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters Limited.
Li, W. (1998). Anatomy of a new ethnic settlement: The Chinese ethnoburb in Los Angeles. Urban Studies, 35(3), 479–501.
Li, W. (2009). Ethnoburb: The new ethnic community in urban America. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Li, W., Dymski, G., Zhou, Y., & Chee, M. (2002). Chinese-American banking and community development in Los Angeles County. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 92(4), 777–796.
Light, I. (1972). Ethnic enterprise in America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Light, I. (2002). Immigrant place entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, 1970–99. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 26(2), 215–228.
Loukaitou-Sideris, A. (2000). Revisiting inner-city strips: A framework for community and economic development. Economic Development Quarterly, 14(2), 165–181.
Miller, S., & Jiang, H. (2009). Qualitative report: City of Monterey Park. Monterey Park: Economic Development Department.
Minority Business Development Agency. (2009). Minority-owned business growth and global reach. Washington, DC: US Department of Commerce.
Odem, M. E. (2008). Unsettled in the suburbs: Latino immigration and ethnic diversity in Metro Atlanta. In A. Singer, S. W. Hardwick, & C. B. Brettell (Eds.), Twenty-first century gateways: Immigrant incorporation in suburban America (pp. 105–126). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Plaza Fiesta (2009). Plaza Fiesta “El Rinconcito de Nuestro Pueblo”. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
Porter, M. E. (May–June, 1995). The competitive advantage of the inner city (pp. 55–71). Harvard Business Review.
Porter, M. E. (1997). New strategies for inner-city economic development. Economic Development Quarterly, 11(1), 11.
Quigley, J. M. (1998). Urban diversity and economic growth. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12(2), 127–138.
Ramos, R. T. (2005). Private bus service on a roll. Atlanta Business Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2005/01/17/story3.html.
Robles, B. J., & Cordero-Guzman, H. (2007). Latino self-employment and entrepreneurship in the United States: An overview of the literature and data sources. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 613(18), 18–31.
Ross and Associates. (2006). City of Chamblee, Georgia 10th year comprehensive plan update: Community Agenda. Chamblee, GA: Planning and Zoning Division.
Sánchez-Jankowski, M. (2008). Cracks in the pavement: Social change and resilience in poor neighborhoods. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Sanders, J. M., & Nee, V. (1987). Limits of ethnic solidarity in the enclave economy. American Sociological Review, 52(6), 745–773.
Sanders, J., & Nee, V. (1992). Problems in resolving the enclave economy debate. American Sociological Review, 57(3), 415–418.
Simon, W. H. (2001). The community economic development movement: Law, business, and the new social policy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Singer, A. (2004). The rise of new immigrant gateways. Washington, DC: Center on urban and metropolitan policy, the Brookings institution.
Stanley R. Hoffman Associates. (2009). Monterey Park consumer survey. Monterey Park, CA: Department of Economic Development.
Sunset Park Businsess Improvement District (2010). Sunset Park 5th Avenue BID. Retrieved 5 December 2010, from sunsetparkbid.org.
Sutton, S. (2010). Rethinking commercial revitalization: A neighborhood small business perspective. Economic Development Quarterly, 24(4), 352–371.
Walcott, S. M. (2002). Overlapping ethnicities and negotiated space: Atlanta’s Buford Highway. Journal of Cultural Geography, 20(1), 51–75.
Walcott, S., & Murphy, A. (2006). Latino communities in Atlanta: Segmented assimilation under construction. In H. A. Smith & O. J. Furuseth (Eds.), Latinos in the new south: Transformations of place (pp. 153–166). Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.
Wang, Q. (2012). Ethnic entrepreneurship studies in geography: A review. Geography Compass, 6(4), 227–240.
Zhou, M. (2004). Revisiting ethnic entrepreneurship: Convergencies, controversies, and conceptual advancements. The International Migration Review, 38(3), 1040–1074.
Zhou, M. (2009). Contemporary Chinese America: Immigration, ethnicity, and community transformation. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Zhou, M., & Cho, M. (2010). Ethnic entrepreneurship: A focused look at the Chinese and Korean enclave economies in Los Angeles. Thunderbird International Business Review, 52(2), 83–96.
Zhou, M., & Kim, R. (2003). A tale of two metropolises: New immigrant Chinese communities in New York and Los Angeles. In D. Halle (Ed.), New York & Los Angeles: Politics, society and culture: A comparative view (pp. 124–149). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Zhou, M., Tseng, Y., & Kim, R. (2008). Rethinking Residential Assimilation. Amerasia Journal, 34(3), 55–83.
About this article
Cite this article
Liu, C.Y., Miller, J. & Wang, Q. Ethnic enterprises and community development. GeoJournal 79, 565–576 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-013-9513-y
- Ethnic businesses
- Community development
- Neighborhood change