Transnationalism and American Exports in an English-Speaking World1


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    The authors acknowledge with thanks a small grant from the Center for International Business Research of the University of California at Los Angeles. However, the authors have sole responsibility for errors of fact, method, or interpretation. Please address correspondence to: Ivan Light, Department of Sociology, P.O. Box 951551, Los Angeles, CA 90095 USA.


Investigating the relationship between immigration, middleman minority status, transnationalism, and U.S. foreign trade, the authors assembled a census-based data file that contains aggregate-level variables for 88 foreign-born groups by national origin between 1980 and 1990. They regressed immigrant characteristics and immigration volume upon time-lagged import/export statistics from the same 88 nations between 1985 and 1995. Results show the independent influence on exports of immigrant entrepreneurship, transnationalism, and middleman minority status. But these variables, exhaustively derived from the existing literature, had no effect on U.S. imports; they only affected exports. The authors propose that the discrepancy between imports and exports arises because of the dominance of English as a world business language. In this situation, foreigners need no help from immigrants when they export to the United States; but native-born, monolingual Americans need the help of bicultural immigrants when they export. The empirical results suggest that immigrant entrepreneurs enhance the United States' exports and thus reduce the United States' balance of payments deficit.