Business

Immigration, Trade, And The Houston Economy

Nearly 1.5 million Greater Houston residents — almost a quarter of the region’s population — were born outside the United States. Many maintain ties to their home countries, strengthening trade and investment links.

 

The Greater Houston Partnership’s inaugural study on Houston as a global economy focuses largely on measuring trade and foreign direct investment. But the study also points up the ties between immigrants across Greater Houston and their home countries. Nearly one out of every four Houstonians was born outside the United States.

Tucked into the report, between sections on real estate and infrastructure, is a heading called, “I Got Here As Soon As I Could.”  It says that the growth of a city’s immigrant population is an indicator of economic health. People in search of work are unlikely to move to a city whose economy is failing. But the report also argues that rising immigration tends to reinforce local growth.

“People who are born overseas are twice as likely to start a business than people who were native born,” says Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president for research at the Greater Houston Partnership. “They tend to be risk takers. If you think about it, if you got up and left your home, you left your family behind, [then] you’re not adverse to risk, and people who aren’t adverse to risk are more likely to start a business, more likely to expand a business.”

The report also notes that immigrants tend to maintain ties to their home countries. Those personal links facilitate trade and investment.

“Back when the partnership was running its World Trade Library,” Jankowski says, “we’d have people come up to our offices and say, ‘I have a brother in Argentina. He can sell all the X or all the Y or all the widgets I can send him. How do I find these in Houston and how do I export them?’”

The Houston area has roughly 1.4 million foreign born residents, according to the latest American Community Survey, published by the U.S Census Bureau. Nearly two-thirds of those residents come from countries in Latin America, while nearly a quarter come from Asia.

 

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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