Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Koreans in Los Angeles, 1965-1982

Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Koreans in Los Angeles, 1965-1982

Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Koreans in Los Angeles, 1965-1982

Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Koreans in Los Angeles, 1965-1982

Excerpt

Although its research spans the period 1965-1982, nearly a generation, Immigrant Entrepreneurs studied a moment in time that is already receding into the past. The Korean community of Los Angeles has continued to grow in population and business firms since our research was completed. For example, we accepted the 1980 Census estimate of Korean self-employment. The Census showed 22.6 percent of Koreans self- employed when unpaid family workers were included. A few years later, Pyong Gap Min (1989: 66) reported a self-employment rate of 47.5 percent among Koreans in Los Angeles, among whom an additional 30.8 percent were employees of Korean-owned firms. The 1990 Census results will give a firmer basis for evaluation of how much faster than the growth of Korean population was the growth of Korean business firms in the 1980s. Nonetheless, thanks to Min, it is now even clearer that Korean entrepreneurship is extraordinarily extensive.

Since other evidence in our book might also be updated, we were tempted to devote our preface to that job. However, surveying the field of immigration studies, we decided that these pages would be better employed in addressing an urgent theoretical issue rather than in updating evidence. The issue is confusion about how to conceptualize immigrant and ethnic economies. Three major concepts are widely used: the ethnic economy, the ethnic enclave economy, and middleman minorities. Often treated as if they were interchangeable and synonymous, these concepts actually organize quite different frameworks for analysis. Our purpose in this preface is to distinguish among these three concepts and to show how each contains presuppositions that lead research in different directions.

RESEARCH TRADITIONS

In the 1980s, immigration research rapidly, belatedly, and often reluctantly confronted entrepreneurship. The reigning research traditions were status attainment and dual labor markets. Both had ignored self-

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