FACT CHECK: Hillary Clinton claims immigrants are better businesspeople

Posted at 3:31 PM, Jul 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-28 22:36:24-04

Hillary Clinton portrayed immigrants as more successful at starting and running businesses than natives in a recent interview.

When Vox editor Ezra Klein asked Clinton if it would be good for the economy to increase immigration, Clinton gave a short answer: yes.

"It is certainly the case that immigration has been and continues to be good for our economy," Clinton said June 22 (the interview appeared online July 11). "Immigrants start businesses at a faster rate; they seem to grow those businesses more successfully."

"Immigrants start businesses at a faster rate; they seem to grow those businesses more successfully."

Clinton’s statement on immigrant-owned businesses interested us, so we put it through a PolitiFact truth-check. 

What the data shows 

Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin pointed us to analysis from the nonpartisan Kauffman Foundation that shows immigrants are almost "twice as likely" to start businesses than natives.

The foundation looked at monthly data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey from 1996 through 2014 and estimated that immigrants have a new entrepreneur rate of 52 percent compared to the native born rate of 27 percent.

Their analysis also addressed the success of these businesses, but only within a certain subset - venture-backed firms.

Immigrant founders from these companies have created about 150 jobs per company in the United States. According to the foundation, in 2011, 24 of the top 50 venture-backed businesses also had a least one foreign-born founder.

Experts we spoke with generally agreed with Clinton’s claim. Although, there are some caveats.

University of California, Santa Cruz economics professor Robert Fairlie, who authored a 2012 paper for the Small Business Administration on immigrant entrepreneurs, said that the success of these businesses is not as clear as the start-up data.

"My estimates show that immigrants have a much higher business start rate than non-immigrants," Fairlie said. "There is also evidence showing that immigrant businesses are smaller on average than non-immigrant businesses."

However, Clinton’s claim was not as definitive.

"Immigrants are indeed more likely than others to be business owners," said David Kallick, a senior fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute. "The claims about business ownership are sometimes overstated, but from the Vox quote, I’d say Hillary is on the mark."

Our ruling

Clinton said, "immigrants start businesses at a faster rate; they seem to grow those businesses more successfully."

Federal data and the experts we spoke with back up her claim. While it’s important to note that evidence on the success of immigrant-owned businesses is limited, what we did find supports what Clinton said, that immigrants "seem" to grow their businesses better than their native counterparts.

We rate Clinton’s claim Mostly True.


For the complete fact-check, visit our news partner, PolitiFact Arizona