40 Percent of Fortune 500 Companies Founded by Immigrants or Their Children
Stuart Anderson , CONTRIBUTOR
I write about globalization, business, technology and immigration.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
We know about immigrant founders at large technology companies, such as Intel, Google and eBay. Less well known is how many immigrants and children of immigrants have founded other successful American companies.
A new report from the Partnership for a New American Economy found more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Eighteen percent (or 90) of the 500 companies had immigrant founders. The children of immigrants started another 114 companies. (A copy of the report can be found here.)
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One reason these figures are remarkable is that, according to the report, the foreign-born population of the United States has averaged 10.5 percent since 1850. That means immigrant entrepreneurs are overrepresented on the list of founders of Fortune 500 companies. As the report notes, “The revenue generated by Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants of children of immigrants is greater than the GDP (gross domestic product) of every country in the world outside the U.S., except China and Japan.” These Fortune 500 companies had combined revenues of $4.2 trillion in 2010, $1.7 trillion which from immigrant-founded companies.
The report also notes,” Many of America’s greatest brands – Apple, Google, AT&T Budweiser, Colgate, eBay, General Electric, IBM, and McDonalds to name just a few – owe their origin to a founder who was an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.”
The list accompanying the research carries some surprising information, Steve Jobs, the famous co-founder of Apple, is a child of an immigrant parent from Syria. Walt Disney also was the child of an immigrant (from Canada), as well as the founders of Oracle (Russia and Iran). IBM (Germany), Clorox (Ireland), Boeing (Germany) 3M (Canada) and Home Depot (Russia).
The research shows the attribute of risk-taking that results in immigrants taking a chance on a new land in many cases can be passed along to their children. Another argument for maintaining a legal immigration open to ambitious immigrants and their families.