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The Ethnic and Racial Character of Self-Employment

  • Robert W. Fairlie
  • Bruce D. Meyer

Using the 1980 and 1990 Censuses, we show that self-employment rates differ substantially across ethnic and racial groups in the U.S. These differences exist for both men and women, within broad combinations of ethnic/racial groups such as Europeans, Asians, Hispanics and blacks, and after controlling for variables such as age, education, immigrant status and time in the country. Although there are large differences in self-employment rates across ethnic/racial groups, the processes determining self-employment within each ethnic/racial group are not substantially different. We find fairly similar effects of age, education, year of immigration, and other factors in determining who is self-employed for most groups. We examine whether ethnic/racial self-employment rates are associated with group returns to self-employment. We find evidence of a positive association between an ethnic/racial group's self- employment rate and the difference between average self-employment and wage/salary earnings for that group. This result suggests that our economic model of the self-employment decision may be useful in explaining differences in self-employment rates across ethnic/racial groups. We also find that different ethnic/racial groups locate their businesses in different types of industries. In addition, we do not find evidence that ethnic/racial groups who immigrate from countries with high self-employment rates have high self-employment rates in the U.S.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4791.

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Date of creation: Jul 1994
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as as "Ethnic and Racial Self-Employment Differences and Possible Explanations ," Journal of Human Resources, 31, Fall 1996, pp.757-793.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4791
Note: LS
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  1. Evans, David S & Jovanovic, Boyan, 1989. "An Estimated Model of Entrepreneurial Choice under Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 808-27, August.
  2. George J. Borjas & Stephen G. Bronars, 1988. "Consumer Discrimination and Self-Employment," NBER Working Papers 2627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 1979. "A General Equilibrium Entrepreneurial Theory of Firm Formation Based on Risk Aversion," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(4), pages 719-48, August.
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  11. Frank Fratoe, 1988. "Social capital of black business owners," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 33-50, March.
  12. Bruce D. Meyer, 1990. "Why Are There So Few Black Entrepreneurs?," NBER Working Papers 3537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Victor R. Fuchs, 1982. "Self-Employment and Labor Force Participation of Older Males," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(3), pages 339-357.
  14. Timothy Bates, 1989. "The changing nature of minority business: A comparative analysis of asian, nonminority, and black-owned businesses," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 25-42, September.
  15. Farley, Reynolds, 1990. "Blacks, Hispanics, and White Ethnic Groups: Are Blacks Uniquely Disadvantaged?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 237-41, May.
  16. Bates, Timothy, 1990. "Entrepreneur Human Capital Inputs and Small Business Longevity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(4), pages 551-59, November.
  17. Moore, Robert L, 1983. "Employer Discrimination: Evidence from Self-Employed Workers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(3), pages 496-501, August.
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