Abstract

Migrant and ethnic entrepreneurship are increasingly seen as driving forces of regional economic growth in the US and Europe. Immigrants are overrepresented among company founders in technology parks (Saxenian, 1999, 2008) and more often self-employed than similarly skilled nativeborn workers (Borjas, 1986, Fairli & Meyer, 1996). Several explanations have been suggested, focusing on personal resources of migrants (e.g. demographic traits) or structural factors (e.g. ethnic opportunities). The goal of our study is to look at a new way to explain this phenomenon: improved opportunity recognition as consequence of the exposure to a foreign culture.

We hypothesize that the exposure to a culturally different context creates a learning environment for opportunity recognition. This learning process is realized on two levels: (1) intercultural experience allows the sojourner to build a more diverse knowledge pool. By interacting with a new business environment she can acquire knowledge about new markets, customer problems and ways to solve problems, allowing the brokering of knowledge about attractive opportunities. (2) Sojourners can also experience an increase in cognitive flexibility (Scott, 1962). A cognitive flexible problem solver is associated with considering several alternative interpretations to a given task, thus developing more and more creative solutions (Krems, 1995).

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