Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Self-Employment among Visible Minority Immigrants, White Immigrants, and Native-Born Persons in Secondary and Tertiary Industries of Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Self-Employment among Visible Minority Immigrants, White Immigrants, and Native-Born Persons in Secondary and Tertiary Industries of Canada

Article excerpt

Research on this paper was supported in part by a grant from the Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration, and in part by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Data used in this paper are based on the 1991 Census, Public Use Microdata File on Individuals supplied by Statistics Canada and made available to the author through the University Library of the University of Saskatchewan as a member of a consortium of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. The author is solely responsible for the use, analysis and interpretation of the census data. The comments and suggestions of the editors and anonymous reviewers are gratefully acknowledged.

Peter S. Li

Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration

and Integration (PCERI)

www.pcerii.metropolis.globalx.net

Department of Sociology, University of Saskatchewan

Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A5

The literature on immigrant business and self-employment has mainly focused on the question of why immigrant minorities tend to be successful in small business. It is generally recognized that disadvantages for minorities in the open market create the conditions for the emergence of immigrant enterprise, but ethnic solidarity also facilitates minorities to mobilize resources in such business ventures (Bonacich and Modell 1980; Waldinger et al 1990; Li 1993). More recently, research has shifted to the enclave economy linked to immigrant firms, and the debate has to do with whether the enclave economy offers returns to immigrants in the enclave similar to those in the primary labour market (Wilson and Portes 1980; Sanders and Nee 1987; Zhou 1992). Using the Public Use Microdata File on Individuals from the 1991 Census of Canada, this paper examines the patterns of self-employment among immigrants in Canada, and compares the earnings of self-employed immigrants to those who were wage workers. As well, comparisons are made between immigrants and native-born Canadians in self-employment and employment. The purpose of the analysis is to see if self-employment offers higher or lower economic returns to immigrants as compared with other immigrants in employment, as well as with the native-born population. The empirical comparison provides a basis for assessing whether immigrant and minority groups engage in self-employment because of blocked mobility or because of lucrative returns in immigrant business.

Theoretical Themes on Immigrant Entrepreneurship

Two themes have appeared in the literature regarding the emergence and development of immigrant business. The first one has to do with whether cultural factors internal to ethnic and immigrant communities, or external forces in the host society which hamper minorities' life chances, best explain why ethnic entrepreurship develops. Advocates of what came to be known as the blocked mobility thesis argue that discrimination and racial barriers restricted the opportunities of minority immigrants in the open market, and forced them into the ethnic business as a means of survival (Li 1982, 1998). Minority business thrived because of its tendency to provide services that filled a status gap in society and consequently posed no threat to the dominant group (Blalock 1967; Rinder 1958-59). Proponents of the transplanted cultural perspective however, stress the internal solidarity of immigrant communities in terms of traditional values and kinship organization as grounds for their business success (Light 1972; Goldberg 1985; Cummings 1980). There are now some general agreements that those disadvantaged in the wage labour market tend to resort to entrepreneurship, and that cultural endowment also facilitates resource mobilization in business development (Bonacich and Modell 1980; Light and Bonacich 1988; Ward and Jenkins 1984; Waldinger et al 1990; Light and Rosenstein 1995). The thrust of this theme is that immigrant entrepreneurship is a strategy of self-preservation in the face of unfavourable market conditions. …

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