The persistence of entrepreneurship and innovative immigrants

Ethnicity and immigration status may play a role in entrepreneurship and innovation, yet the impact of university entrepreneurship education on this relationship is under-explored. This paper examines the persistence and differences in entrepreneurship by ethnicity and nationality. We find that among Stanford alumni, Asian Americans have a higher rate of entrepreneurship than white Americans. However, non-American Asians have a substantially lower, about 12% points lower, start-up rate than Asian Americans. Such discrepancy not only holds for entrepreneurial choice but also for investing as an angel investor or venture capitalist, or utilizing Stanford networks to find funding sources or partners. Participation in Stanford University’s entrepreneurship program as a student does little to reduce this gap. The low level of parental entrepreneurship and the high degree of intergenerational correlation in entrepreneurship likely result in the lower level of entrepreneurship and participation in university entrepreneurship programs among Asians relative to their Asian American counterparts. Our findings highlight the value of immigration in terms of breaking the persistence in entrepreneurship among certain ethnic groups and promoting potential high-growth entrepreneurship in the United States. In addition, our findings may have important implications for programs to incorporate immigrant entrepreneurs within their home countries to promote entrepreneurship and help break the persistence of entrepreneurship across generations.