Ethnicity, Culture, and Entrepreneurship


A study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Small Business Management explores the culturally-based values involved in creating successful, growing business ventures. While some prominent values were found to be based from the entrepreneur's native culture, they each share certain core values regardless of their cultural origin. Just as culture influenced their personal values, so did the pursuit of entrepreneurial ventures give rise to certain shared principles. "Each of the individual groups cited values that are generally associated with their particular ethnic backgrounds, such as frugality for the Koreans, risk aversion for the Japanese, or hospitality for the Hawaiians," authors Michael Morris and Minet Schindehutte state. "At the same time, all of them cited values not necessarily related to, and in some cases conflicting with, their ethnic tradition." The study focused on first generation entrepreneurs from six ethnic groups within the state of Hawaii: Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Native Hawaiian.

Participants answered a questionnaire designed to answer six key areas including their beliefs, core business practices, and reasons for pursuing their own businesses. They were also presented with forty-six values and asked to prioritize the five with which they most closely identified. These values represented an equal mix emphasized in general literature, associated with Asian culture, e.g. hard work, respect for authority and tradition, and associated with the Western perspective of entrepreneurship, e.g. individualism and wealth. The aforementioned cited values that conflicted with their cultures were those with a strong emphasis on independence, success, achievement, and ambition- ones historically associated with entrepreneurship. "We believe that culture matters, but it is less a precedent to entrepreneurship, and instead, is a complex and dynamically interacting factor," the authors explain.

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