Monday, January 05, 2009

Study: Immigrants drive job growth

Check out the full report "Recent Immigration to Philadelphia: Regional Change and Response".

Here are some key findings from an analysis of the growth and characteristics of the foreign-born in the Philadelphia metropolitan area between 1970 and 2006:

• Among its peers, metropolitan Philadelphia has the largest and fastest growing immigrant population, which now stands at over 500,000, comprising 9 percent of the population. Between 2000 and 2006, greater Philadelphia’s immigrant population grew by 113,000, nearly as many as had arrived in the decade of the 1990s.

• Metropolitan Philadelphia has a diverse mix of immigrants and refugees from Asia (39 percent), Latin America and the Caribbean (28 percent), Europe (23 percent) and Africa (8 percent). The 10 largest source countries are India, Mexico, China, Vietnam, Korea, Italy, Ukraine, Philippines, Jamaica, and Germany.

• Immigrant growth in suburban Philadelphia has outpaced the city’s growth, but numerically, the city has the largest population of all local jurisdictions. Outside the city, Montgomery County had the earliest post- World War II suburban settlement of the foreign born and has the largest number of immigrants among jurisdictions, while Chester County saw the fastest growth during the 1970-2006 time period.

• Nearly 60 percent of the foreign-born living in metropolitan Philadelphia arrived in the United States after 1990. Although their naturalization rates and educational levels reflect their recentness of arrival, on the whole, greater Philadelphia’s immigrants are doing well on these measures as compared with some other U.S. metropolitan immigrant populations.

• Nearly 75 percent of greater Philadelphia’s labor force growth since 2000 is attributable to immigrants. Immigrants’ contributions to the labor force are considerably higher in this period than in the 1990s, when just 36 percent of the growth was due to immigrants.


by Athena D. Merritt
Friday, November 28, 2008

About 220 businesses, employing 900 workers, occupy the six-block stretch of 52nd Street between Arch and Spruce streets in West Philadelphia.

Overwhelmingly, they are immigrant-owned, reported the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, which hopes a study released this month will bring attention to the contributions being made by immigrants to the city’s struggling commercial corridors.

Immigrants have accounted for nearly 75 percent of the area’s labor growth since 2000 and, when compared to native born, more are employed (73 percent versus 71.5 percent) and self-employed (10.7 percent versus 7.9 percent), according to a new Brookings Institution study, “Recent Immigration to Philadelphia: Regional Change in a Re-Emerging Gateway.”

The city can’t afford to overlook the area’s immigrant population, which at more than 500,000 is the largest and fastest-growing of its peer regions, said Anne O’Callaghan, executive director of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.

“They go into what we would call at-risk neighborhoods that are in decline and suffer from lack of resources,” O’Callaghan said of businesses being started by immigrants. “You look at the commercial corridors over the past few years, immigrant businesses have been the base upon which the corridors have been able to survive.”

Sixty-five percent of the businesses on the six-block stretch of 52nd Street are owned by immigrants, she said. Immigrants also own 39 of the 56 businesses on Baltimore Avenue between 45th and 50th streets, 70 percent of the dozen businesses on Moore and Morris streets from Broad Street to 16th and 60 percent of the businesses on North 5th between West Summerville and West Chew avenues, according to a study by the center in 2004.

“They don’t do it because they were born entrepreneurs, often necessity is the mother of invention, they do it because they can’t find jobs,” O’Callaghan told those gathered for the release of the Brookings study this month.

The businesses are being opened by immigrants despite a number of obstacles, including language barriers, limited business training and challenges navigating resources, if they are able to access them at all, O’Callaghan said. None of the businesses from the corridors the center studied were able to procure bank loans. Nearly half owned the properties and had made improvements and planned to do more in the future. Nearly half of the businesses had also been started in properties that had been vacant or abandoned.

The presence of immigrant businesses is felt, said Audrey Singer, lead researcher on the Brookings study. “In some neighborhoods you can see places that have been declining for some time being perked up by immigrant businesses,” Singer said, pointing to West Philadelphia’s 52nd Street as an example.

The Center for New Pennsylvanians opened Welcoming Center West on 246 S. 52nd Street this year to support the corridor’s immigrant and native-born entrepreneurs. This summer, the center also launched the pilot program English for Entrepreneurs, which teaches foreign-born business owners basic English to help improve their customer service, business development and customer engagement skills.

Additionally, in September, the center became a partner with the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in a new program that connects students to foreign-owned businesses. The students get skills in interpreting and community organizing and class credit, while the businesses get help accessing resources that language barriers have kept them from doing in the past, Fatimah Muhammad, manager of Welcoming Center West, said. The efforts only scrape the surface; more are needed, Muhammad said.

“If you want them to stay you need to remove these barriers,” she said.

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