Differential self-employment among the foreign-born and the native-born: The case of Greeks in New York

Gregory Aristotle Katsas, Fordham University


Prompted by the limited understanding of the issue of self-employment among immigrants, the purpose of this study is to investigate specific factors that contribute to higher probability of self-employment among foreign-born Greeks compared to native-born ones in the New York City area and explain them through the ethnic enclave perspective. The study uses a 6 percent sample of Greeks in the New York City C.M.S.A. drawn from the 1980 U.S. Census P.U.M.S. The analysis employs a multivariate logistic regression to predict individuals' probabilities of business ownership. The specific factors used to explain the nativity differential are skill (work experience, education, English language proficiency), family (gender and marital status), industry sector, migration (year of immigration) and motivational characteristics (U.S. citizenship). The results indicate that all the factors significantly affect the probability of self-employment. Furthermore, this study provides additional insights regarding the impact of these factors. Prompted by a disagreement in the literature concerning the effect of education on the likelihood of self-employment, this study reveals that education has a non-linear effect on the probability of self-employment. In addition interactive effects are found between education and nativity, with educational effects being more noticeable among native-born than foreign-born. Contrary to what the ethnic enclave perspective might predict, Greeks with poor ability to speak English are significantly less likely to be self-employed than the English monolingual ones. The findings of the study suggest that the foreign-born are not homogeneous and indicate that earlier arrivals display higher propensity for self-employment. Unfortunately, however, the decrease in immigrant entrepreneurship can not be traced accurately up to the most recently arriving Greeks. With respect to the motivational factor, the study uses acquisition of U.S. citizenship as a proxy of the commitment to stay in the United States. The analysis points to the fact that foreign-born Greeks who are not U.S. citizens are similar to the native-born in self-employment. Only those foreign-born who have acquired U.S. citizenship display significantly higher rates of entrepreneurship compared to the native-born. The study concludes by discussing the implications of the findings on the ethnic enclave perspective and by offering suggestions for further research.

Subject Area

Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Katsas, Gregory Aristotle, "Differential self-employment among the foreign-born and the native-born: The case of Greeks in New York" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9223818.