Prior research has shown that immigrants are more likely than natives to become entrepreneurs, and that entrepreneurs are disproportionately drawn from the extremes of the ability distribution. Using a large panel of US residents with bachelors’ degrees in scientific fields, we ask whether higher rates of entrepreneurship among immigrants can be explained by their position on the ability spectrum and establish four new facts about science-based and immigrant entrepreneurship. First, in this sample, an immigrant entrepreneurship premium exists only in science-based entrepreneurship. Second, this premium persists after controlling for ability (measured by paid employment wage residuals.) Third, a U-shaped relationship between ability and entrepreneurship exists only in non-science entrepreneurship; for science entrepreneurship, the relationship is increasing. Finally, the immigrant premium in science entrepreneurship is largest among immigrants with non-US degrees and those from non-English-speaking or culturally dissimilar countries. Stated preferences for self-employment do not explain the immigrant premium. The results suggest that immigrants may on average have higher levels of unobservable skills related to entrepreneurship.
Small Business Economics – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 7, 2017
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