The study focused on the children of U.S. immigrant entrepreneurs, specifically Asian American and Latino graduate and professional students. Study participants grew up in households in the U.S. The main common shared experience among the study participants was their immigrant entrepreneur parents and their experiences growing up around the family business. Both of which heavily influenced their desire to pursue an education in the U.S. and determined their job choices and decision to work in the States.
It’s no surprise, that children of parents who owned their own businesses would be more likely to pursue advanced studies. Immigrant business owners have to work hard to survive and grow a business, and the children see that work, effort and sacrifice their parents put into keeping the family and business solvent. The study also noted that in several cases, the children, who often usually had more advanced English language skills than their parents, served as translators for their parents. Some parents also consciously shielded their children from working in the family business, particularly from activities that involved manual exertion.
Study participants related how their immigrant parents wanted them to excel educationally, get good, stable U.S. jobs, and live more comfortable lives in the U.S. than their parents had. ILC found that “there is an inherent appreciation among the adult children of immigrant entrepreneurs for the sacrifices their parents made to ensure that they have successful careers and lead normal lives in their adopted homeland”.
My own parents were immigrants and always regretted not starting their own business in the U.S. My dad instead went the safe route of becoming a professor at a local university, and always worried about finances. He also tried various schemes of starting home based businesses while we were growing up, none of which succeeded. But his strive for independence, his hard work, and my parent’s sacrifices were certainly not lost on me, and I did my best to work just as hard, pursuing not only a college degree, but a graduate one as well. In that respect and in the fact that my siblings and myself were the language brokers for my mom, my experiences aligned closely with those of the study participants.
Where my parents differed, is that when they came to the U.S. they always thought they would return to Taiwan. But years passed, and their kids became too American to ever move back. And they decided the U.S. was home, for them and for us.