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The study of ethnic entrepreneurship is advancing from its historic roots to assist us in better understanding entrepreneurial behavior in contemporary ethnic communities. Using data drawn from a recently conducted survey of a Pakistani/Ismaili community in a Southwestern city we analyze two research questions. Are the characteristics of business owners and the business organizations in this community similar to or different from statistics published about ethnic entrepreneurs. We find there are differences in several areas. The businesses in the studied community are even more heavily located in the retail sector than any other group considered. The businesses report larger annual sales and more full–time employees. The business owners are also slightly less educated.

While the comparison of the demographics is in itself relevant, the underlying contextual issues of the comparison may be even more so. We stress the importance of the definition of ethnic entrepreneurship throughout this research agenda. The comparison groups in the SMOBE and CBO are related, although much broader, however, the issue is whether patterns of relationships exist which influence the entrepreneurial decision. The SMOBE and CBO, while contributing to the understanding of different types of questions, are inappropriate databases for many of the most relevant questions in the study of ethnic entrepreneurship.

One of these relevant questions concerns the sources of start–up capital for the new venture. This question revealed a potential for interesting differences between the more general ethnic economic census databases and the community based study. A high level of usage of a community fund was reported by the respondents. The development and use of this type of fund is predicated upon the bounded solidarity and degree of trust in the community (Portes & Sensenbrunner, 1993; Light, 1980; Geertz, 1962). Practitioners frequently state the lack of sources of small dollar amounts of start–up funds. Policy issues are being developed to offer such funds through various kinds of microlending programs (Johnson, 1996, Servon, 1994, 1996). The structure of these programs borrows heavily from the types of funding programs institutionalized in ethic communities with active business creation behaviors.

Given our conclusion that there are some differences between business owners and their businesses in ethnic communities and those outside a bounded community, we considered three critical elements of the theories guiding the study of ethnic entrepreneurship to see if these elements begin to explain the differences discovered. The theoretical components of immigration and a tendency toward self–employment in the areas of retail and service accurately fit our sample. However, our findings regarding discrimination bear more research. A perception of discrimination in the labor force is not found throughout all respondents. Indeed, the majority of respondents report favorably toward the equality of the opportunity structure. This finding suggests that continued research in the area must consider the enhancement or advancement of the theory to explain conditions where ethnic entrepreneurship is observed, in conceptual clear ways, without the "push" of discrimination.

Entrepreneurship is often posited in the popular press as a potential tool to be used against the economic inequities found in most societies. Many look to communities of ethnic entrepreneurs for blueprints for the creation of businesses, especially inner city businesses. An increased understanding of the critical components and the processes inherent in the ethnic entrepreneurial community will help us better evaluate the generalizeability of lessons learned.

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