Research continues to bear out that immigrants are more likely to become entrepreneurs than a given native population – at least in the majority of the 69 countries that comprised the original survey. Peter Vandor of Harvard Business Review has been researching possible reasons for this phenomenon, and he has a fairly convincing answer – a heightened tolerance for risk.
While Vandor explains that prior research regarded things like discrimination and lack of opportunity in the countries from which entrepreneurs emigrated, he uncovered a more pertinent take in his own digging, something he calls “personality-based self-selection.”
This concept led to Vandor’s current hypothesis, which helped form the most recent understanding of the correlation between immigrants and business creators.
Personality-based self-selection essentially implies that risk-oriented people are more drawn to risk-inherent activities, such as immigrating–or starting a business in a foreign country. “I expected that immigrants would be more likely than others to start businesses precisely because of their appetite for risk, which helped them go abroad in the first place,” summarizes Vandor.
It turns out that Vandor was right.
After surveying groups of students in 2007 and then doing so again 12 years later (this time focusing on their current careers), he found that his risk-focused candidates showed a proclivity for entrepreneurship. “Students with a high willingness to take risks were significantly more likely than others to plan to emigrate and start a business, and by 2019 those plans had become reality,” he says.
“Statistical analyses confirmed that a high willingness to take risks contributed greatly to the results, even after controlling for age, gender, entrepreneurship experience, and other variables.”
It takes a substantial amount of risk, courage, and faith to leave one’s country in pursuit of something new. While not directly comparable, the notion of creating one’s own business comes with its own set of unknowns and possibly devastating consequences.
To see people who embrace that risk setting out to create their own businesses, knowing fully well how difficult it can be for immigrants to succeed in a new country for any number of reasons, is inspiring. If you aren’t already working with and actively celebrating immigrant-owned businesses, perhaps Vandor’s data is sufficient to initiate a much-needed change.