Small Business Economics

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 345–359 | Cite as

Transnational activities of immigrant-owned firms and their performances in the USA

  • Qingfang Wang
  • Cathy Yang Liu


Using microdata from the U.S. Survey of Business Owners 2007, this study examines transnational activities of immigrant-owned businesses in three aspects: Whether they export, outsource jobs, and have overseas establishments. Results show that immigrant-owned firms have significantly higher tendency to be involved in transnational economic activities when compared to non-immigrant-owned firms. Immigrant firms without transnational activities have significantly fewer employees, smaller annual total sales, and smaller total payrolls than non-immigrant firms. However, immigrant-owned firms with transnational activities fare significantly better than non-immigrant-owned firms without transnational activities. These findings speak directly to the long-debated issues concerning different motivations and performance outcomes of immigrant business ownership.


Immigrant entrepreneurship Transnational Internationalization Firm performance 

JEL Classification



  1. Acs, Z. J., Morck, R. K., & Yeung, B. (2001). Entrepreneurship, globalisation, and public policy. Journal of International Management, 7, 235–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adler, P. S., & Kwon, S.-W. (2002). Social capital: Prospects for a new concept. Academy of Management Review, 27(1), 17–40. doi: 10.5465/AMR.2002.5922314.Google Scholar
  3. Aldrich, H. E., & Waldinger, R. (1990). Ethnicity and entrepreneurship. Annual Review of Sociology, 111–135. doi: 10.1146/
  4. Appold, S. J., & Kasard, J. D. (2004). Building community through entrepreneurship: Lessons from Vietnam and the United States. In J. Butler, & G. Kozmetsky (Eds.), Immigrant and minority entrepreneurship: Building American communities (pp. 61–84). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  5. Barrett, G. A., Jones, T. P., & McEvoy, David. (1996). Ethnic minority business: Theoretical discourse in Britain and North America. Urban Studies, 33(4/5), 783–809. doi: 10.1080/00420989650011825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bates, T., & Robb, A. (2008). Analysis of young neighborhood firms serving urban minority clients. Journal of Economics and Business, 60(1), 139–148. doi: 10.1016/j.jeconbus.2007.09.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cavusgil, S. T. (1984). Differences among exporting firms based on their degree of internationalization. Journal of Business Research, 12(2), 195–208. doi: 10.1016/0148-2963(84)90006-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chin, K-S., Yoon, I-J., & Smith, D. (1996). Immigrant small business and international economic linkage: A case of the Korean wig business in Los Angeles, 1968–1977. International Migration Review, 485–510. doi: 10.2307/2547391.
  9. Coviello, N. E., & McAuley, A. (1999). Internationalisation and the smaller firm: a review of contemporary empirical research. Management International Review (MIR), 39(3), 223–256.Google Scholar
  10. Deakins, D., Smallbone, D., Ishaq, M., Whittam, G., & Wyper, J. (2009). Minority ethnic enterprise in Scotland. Journal of ethnic and migration studies, 35(2), 309–330. doi: 10.1080/13691830802586468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Doeringer, P. B., & Piore, M. J. (1971). Internal labor markets and manpower analysis. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath & Co.Google Scholar
  12. Drori, I., Honig, B., & Wright, M. (2009). Transnational entrepreneurship: An emergent field of study. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 33(5), 1001–1022. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2009.00332.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eckstein, S., & Nguyen, T.-N. (2011). The making and transnationalization of an ethnic niche: Vietnamese manicurists. International Migration Review, 45(3), 639–674. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-7379.2011.00861.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Etemad, H. (2004). Internationalization of small and medium-sized enterprises: A grounded theoretical framework and an overview. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l’Administration, 21(1), 1–21. doi: 10.1111/j.1936-4490.2004.tb00319.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ewing, W. (2012). Immigrants may hold the key to urban renewal in Baltimore.
  16. Faist, T. (2008). Migrants as transnational development agents: an inquiry into the newest round of the migration-development nexus. Population, Space and Place, 14(1), 21–42. doi: 10.1002/psp.471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fawcett, J. T., & Gardner, R. W. (1994). Asian immigrant entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs: A comparative study of recent Korean and Filipino immigrants. Population and Environment, 15(3), 211–238. doi: 10.1007/BF02208201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fischer, E., & Reuber, B. (2008). Survival of the fittest: Which SMEs internationalize most extensively and effectively? (pp. 31): The Conference Board of Canada.Google Scholar
  19. Gjellerup, P. (2000). SME support services in the face of globalisation. Concerted action seminar, Opening address, Conference Proceedings, Danish Agency for Trade and Industry, Copenhagen, pp. 16–28.Google Scholar
  20. Green, N. L. (1996). Women and immigrants in the sweatshop: Categories of labor segmentation revisited. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 38(03), 411–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hart, D. M., & Acs, Z. J. (2011). High-tech immigrant entrepreneurship in the United States. Economic Development Quarterly, 25(2):16–129.Google Scholar
  22. Hudson, K. (2007). The new labor market segmentation: Labor market dualism in the new economy. Social Science Research, 36(1), 286–312. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2005.11.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 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. doi: 10.1177/0891242403255088.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Johanson, J., & Vahlne, J. E. (1990). The mechanism of internationalization. International Marketing Review, 7(4), 11–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johanson, J., & Wiedersheim-Paul, F. (1975). The internationalization of the firm: Four Swedish cases. Journal of Management Studies, 2(3), 305–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kallick, D. D. (2012). Immigrant small business owners: A significant and growing part of the economy immigration research initiative. New York: Fiscal Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  27. Kaplan, D. H., & House-Soremekun, B. (2009). Entrepreneurship and neighbourhood among African Americans in Cleveland, Ohio. International Journal of Business and Globalisation, 3(3), 256–270. doi: 10.1504/IJBG.2009.023498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kariv, D., Menzies, T. V., Brenner, G. A., & Filion, L. J. (2009). Transnational networking and business performance: Ethnic entrepreneurs in Canada. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 21(3), 239–264. doi: 10.1080/08985620802261641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kitching, J., Smallbone, D., & Athayde, R. (2009). Ethnic diasporas and business competitiveness: Minority-owned enterprises in London. Journal of ethnic and migration studies, 35(4), 689–705. doi: 10.1080/13691830902765368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kuznetsov, Y. N. (2006). Diaspora networks and the international migration of skills: How countries can draw on their talent abroad. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  31. Lehtinen, U., & Penttinen, H. (1999). Definition of the internationalization of the firm. In U. Lehtinen & H. Seristoe (Eds.), Perspectives on internationalization (pp. 3–19). Helsinki: Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration.Google Scholar
  32. Light, I., & Rosenstein, C. (1995). Race, ethnicity, and entrepreneurship in urban America. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  33. Liu, C. Y., Painter, G., & Wang, Q. (2014). Lessions for metro areas characteristics and clustering of high-tech immigrant entrepreneurs. Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation White Paper.Google Scholar
  34. Lu, J. W., & Beamish, P. W. (2001). The internationalization and performance of SMEs. Strategic Management Journal, 22(6–7), 565–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miera, F. (2008). Transnational strategies of polish migrant entrepreneurs in trade and small business in Berlin. Journal of ethnic and migration studies, 34(5), 753–770. doi: 10.1080/13691830802106010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Miesenbock, K. J. (1988). Small business and exporting: A literature review. International Small Business Journal, 6(2), 42–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nakhaie, R., Lin, X., & Guan, J. (2009). Social capital and the myth of minority self-employment: Evidence from Canada. Journal of ethnic and migration studies, 35(4), 625–644. doi: 10.1080/13691830902765244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Neville, F., Orser, B., Riding, A., & Jung, O. (2014). Do young firms owned by recent immigrants outperform other young firms? Journal of Business Venturing, 29(1), 55–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Portes, A. (1998). Social capital: Its origins and application in modern sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Portes, A. (2003). Conclusion: Theoretical convergencies and empirical evidence in the study of immigrant transnationalism. International Migration Review, 37(3), 874–892. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-7379.2003.tb00161.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Portes, A., Guarnizo, L. E., & Haller, W. J. (2002). Transnational entrepreneurs: An alternative form of immigrant economic adaptation. American Sociological Review, 67(2), 278–298. doi: 10.2307/3088896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Portes, A., & Jensen, L. (1989). The enclave and the entrants: Patterns of ethnic enterprise in Miami before and after Mariel. American Sociological Review, 54(6), 929–949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Price, M., & Chacko, E. (2009). The mixed embeddedness of ethnic entrepreneurs in a new immigrant gateway. Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, 7(3), 328–346. doi: 10.1080/15562940903150105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Raijman, R., & Tienda, M. (2000). Immigrants’ pathways to business ownership: A comparative ethnic perspective. International Migration Review, 682–706. doi: 10.2307/2675942.
  45. Reid, S. D. (1981). The decision-maker and export entry and expansion. Journal of International Business Studies, 12(2), 101–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Reynolds, P. D. (1997). New and small firms in expanding markets. Small Business Economics, 9(1), 79–84. doi: 10.1023/A:1007916217140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ruzzier, M., Hisrich, R. D., & Antoncic, B. (2006). SME internationalization research: past, present, and future. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 13(4), 476–497. doi: 10.1108/14626000610705705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sanders, J. M., & Nee, V. (1987). Limits of ethnic solidarity in the enclave economy. American Sociological Review, 52, 745–773.Google Scholar
  49. Saxenian, A. (2002). Silicon Valley’s new immigrant high-growth entrepreneurs. Economic Development Quarterly, 16(1):20–31.Google Scholar
  50. Saxenian, A. (2007). The new Argonauts: Regional advantage in a global economy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Shrader, R., & Siegel, D. S. (2007). Assessing the relationship between human capital and firm performance: evidence from technology-based new ventures. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 31(6), 893–908.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Singer, S., & Senor, D. (2011). Start-up nation: The story of Israel’s economic miracle. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.Google Scholar
  53. Stafford, B. (2012). Seattle’s Korean community: How immigration makes us all stronger.
  54. Sullivan, D. G. (1994). Measuring the degree of internationalization of a firm. Journal of International Business Studies, 25(2), 325–342. doi: 10.2307/155392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wadhwa, V., Saxenian, A., Rissing, B., & Gereffi, G. (2007). America’s new immigrant entrepreneurs, Part 1. Duke University, Pratt School of Engineering Manuscript, January.Google Scholar
  56. Waldinger, R., Aldrich, H., & Ward, R. (1990). Ethnic entrepreneurs: immigrant business in industrial societies. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  57. Waldinger, R., & Lapp, M. (1993). Back to the sweatshop or ahead to the informal sector? International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 17(1), 6–29. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2427.1993.tb00209.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wang, Q. (2012). Ethnic entrepreneurship studies in geography: A review. Geography Compass, 6(4), 227–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wilson, K. L., & Portes, A. (1980). Immigrant enclaves: An analysis of the labor market experiences of Cubans in Miami. The American Journal of Sociology, 86(2), 295–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zhou, M. (1992). Chinatown: The socioeconomic potential of an urban enclave. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Zhou, M., & Cho, M. (2010). Noneconomic effects of ethnic entrepreneurship: Evidence from Chinatown and Koreatown in Los Angeles, USA. Thunderbird International Business Review, 52(2), 83–96. Google Scholar
  62. Zhou, Y., & Hsu, J.-Y. (2011). Divergent engagements: Roles and strategies of Taiwanese and mainland Chinese returnee entrepreneurs in the IT industry. Global Networks, 11(3), 398–419. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0374.2010.00302.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Earth SciencesUniversity of North Carolina CharlotteCharlotteUSA
  2. 2.Andrew Young School of Policy StudiesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations