Family businesses have played an important role in the lives of immigrants to the United States. These businesses have enabled immigrants to establish themselves, first as members of their ethnic neighborhoods and secondly, as members of the American community in which they live. Family businesses have also contributed to the preservation of the ethnic heritage and culture of immigrants and have enriched multiculturalism in the United States.
The majority of European immigrants who arrived in the United States during the nineteenth century found work in the burgeoning new industries of the country. Meatpacking plants,
Family businesses were most typically associated with
The food industry also provided business opportunities for those lacking the funds to open stores or restaurants. Greek and
Immigrants also established businesses not related to food, such as sewing and
Encouraged by their success in their local neighborhoods, the
Immigrant family businesses did not simply remain small storefronts or home-based service businesses. Many Italian immigrants who began as pushcart vendors of fruits and vegetables transformed their businesses into wholesale produce firms with fleets of delivery trucks. Such businesses typically remained family owned and managed, while also employing many nonfamily members. German bakers expanded their businesses. Some opened chains of bakeries, others set up wholesale bread companies. Many
As they became more affluent, immigrants from virtually all immigrant groups founded businesses in profitable market sectors. Immigrants owned steel mills, breweries, flour mills, and other businesses. These businesses tended to stay family owned, as they were passed down to succeeding generations of family members. Many of these businesses grew from single commercial entities to become large corporations with facilities throughout the United States. By the middle of the twentieth century, firms founded by immigrant families were a major part of the mainstream of American business.
At the same time that European immigrants were settling in the eastern and midwestern states,
Members of a Chinese family posing in front of their New York City grocery store.
The booming population of miners from around the world and the growing number of tourists in San Francisco and other California towns created additional business opportunities for Chinese immigrants. The need for
In the latter half of the twentieth century, immigrants not only from China but also from Korea, Vietnam, India, and many other Asian countries came to the United States. Family businesses, especially in the food sector, continued to offer opportunities for financial success. Although the United States increasingly was by then becoming a country of large conglomerate commercial enterprises, Asian immigrant families still managed to find success in starting ethnic-based enterprises.
Early immigrants from
During the early history of U.S. immigration, family structures were not significantly changed within families that worked together in businesses. However, by mid-twentieth century, the roles that parents and children assumed in these businesses began to have a significant impact on family relationships. For example, children of non-English-speaking immigrants began to play more important roles in the businesses as parents relied
By opening family businesses, immigrants have played an important role in the development of the American business sector. Although immigrant businesses were originally staffed predominantly by family members, many of them evolved into large enterprises that have employed large workforces. As family businesses have grown, they have offered employment opportunities to other immigrants, particularly those in the same ethnic groups as the owners of the businesses.
While various immigrant groups were instrumental in the creation of a broad range of business activity such as the garment industry, trucking and manufacturing, immigrant family business has been the most visible as a factor in the food service business. Ethnic restaurants have become an integral part of the American landscape.
Aldrich, Howard, Robert Ward, and Roger Waldinger, eds. Ethnic Entrepreneurs: Immigrant Business in Industrial Societies. n.p.: BookSurge Publishing, 2006. Self-published new edition of a book originally issued by Sage Publishing in 1990. Collection of studies of influences on the establishment of businesses by immigrants around the world and the forces affecting their transformations. Two chapters address ethnic businesses in the United States. Chang, Iris. The Chinese in America: A Narrative History. New York: Viking Press, 2003. Very good source for Chinese immigrant history with interesting stories about Chinese family businesses. Colli, Andrea. The History of Family Business, 1850-2000. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Not limited to immigrant family businesses but an excellent discussion of what a family business is. Liu, Haiming. The Transnational History of a Chinese Family: Immigrant Letters, Family Business, and Reverse Migration. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2005. Excellent study of an immigrant family in business throughout several generations. Examines asparagus farming as a family business. Portes, Alejandro, and Rubén G. Rumbaut. Immigrant America: A Portrait. 3d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. This book does not specifically focus on family business but does discuss immigrants in relation to the American economy and presents a good general view of the immigrant experience in the United States. Rath, Jan. Immigrant Business: The Economic, Political and Social Environment. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000. Explores factors that enable some immigrant businesses to become part of the mainstream economy and why economic, political, and social factors cause others to remain outside the mainstream. Vo, Linda Trinh, and Roger Bonus, eds. Contemporary Asian American Communities: Intersections and Divergences. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. Excellent study of the Asian community in America and how it has changed. Chapter 10 addresses the important role of children in Asian family businesses.
Alien land laws
California gold rush
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882