Date: June 17, 2021
Immigrant entrepreneurs have long been an important part of America’s economic success story. Some of the largest and most recognizable American companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, including household names such as Apple and Costco, as well as newcomers to the Fortune 500 list like Moody’s and Chewy. Even the toy manufacturer Hasbro was created by the Hassenfeld brothers who emigrated from Poland to Rhode Island in the early 1900s.
Since our first New American Fortune 500 report in 2011, NAE found that more than two out of every five Fortune 500—the 500 largest corporation by revenue in the country—had at least one immigrant or child-of-immigrant founder. This pattern has continued over the years since. This year, we find that 44 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
In this year's brief, we update our analysis, looking at the New American companies that made the 2021 Fortune 500 list. We find that 44 percent, or 220 companies, in the Fortune 500 were founded by immigrants or their children. Of those companies, 105 were founded directly by foreign-born individuals while another 115 were founded by the children of immigrants. Of this year’s crop of New American Fortune 500, several notable new companies made the cut.
These New American firms make important contributions to both the U.S. and the global economy. In fiscal year 2020, the 220 New American companies on the 2020 Fortune 500 list brought in $6.2 trillion in revenue. To put it in context, that figure is greater than the GDP of many developed countries—including Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In fact, a country with a GDP equal to the revenues of the New American Fortune 500 firms would be the third largest economy in the world, behind only the United States and China.
These companies are a strong driver of job creation. On average, each New American Fortune 500 company employs 63,299 workers, 16.5 percent more than the average number of workers at non-New American Fortune 500 firms. Together, New American Fortune 500 firms employ over 13.9 million people—a population that would rank as the fifth largest state in the country, just after New York but easily beating Pennsylvania
When we compare companies at the state level, New American Fortune 500 firms are significant players in some states’ economies. Among the states that have 10 or more New American Fortune 500 companies, New York, America’s original immigrant gateway, leads the pack with 31 firms. California comes in second with 25 New American Fortune 500 companies, followed by Illinois with 23, Texas with 21, Florida with 12, Pennsylvania with 10, and Virginia with 10. Given their number and size, these New American companies have an outsized impact on each state’s economy. For example, in New York, the Fortune 500 companies brought in revenue that equaled 63.1 percent of the state’s total GDP and employed 1.83 million people around the world. In Illinois, New American companies brought in combined revenue equal to 77.2 percent of the state’s GDP.
The New American Fortune 500 is only one example of how immigrants and their children create American jobs and drive our economy. Medium and small businesses are also vital to the U.S. economy, employing many more millions at neighborhood stores, restaurants, professional services, and other local businesses. Immigrants have a significant role to play here, with nearly 3.2 million immigrants running their own businesses. Data from 2017 also shows that immigrants continue to be more likely to be entrepreneurs than their U.S.-born counterparts. This increased propensity for business creation among immigrants is crucial for the U.S economy, as research shows that nearly all net job growth in the United States is attributed to new firms and startups.