In Darwin’s evolution organisms fight and adapt into an evolutionary niche that they can then thrive to breed and multiple. The American economy is much the same way. New immigrants and American minorities find their own economic niche that they then thrive in and pass on to their families and communities. Some stick to what they know, like Japanese owned sushi restaurants. Others strike off in entirely new expected directions.
10. Afghans rule fried chicken
For the last few decades Afghanistan has held the record for the most refugees outside their home country. While millions inhabit camps in Iran and Pakistan, others with more money have scattered around the world. Some of these settled in New York City. Even though they were often upper class elites in Afghanistan, in America they would have to start all over again. One or two of these Afghans started working in fried chicken restaurants. Even though in Afghanistan lamb is the main meat on the dinner table they quickly learned the ropes of cooking chicken, which is safe to eat according to Islamic law. These Afghan chicken pioneers started their own fried chicken restaurants and hired other Afghan expats to work with them. Inevitably some of these workers also decided to branch out until in NYC the Afghan community has cornered the fried chicken market. Spread out across the city there are over 350 Afghan owned fried chicken joints.
9. Koreans dominate the NYC deli-and-grocery sector
New York City always had a problem with stocking fresh food. Space was limited for giant supermarkets that existed in other spacious cities yet in NYC it was hard to find fresh fruit and produce, even in well off neighborhoods. In the 70s South Korean immigrants began to pour into the city and sought out jobs. Sensing a need these immigrants jumped at the chance to open corner grocery stores. These were perfect for these newcomers as the job didn’t require much English or specialized training. Multiple generations worked in the stores and other members of the Korean community seeing their success opened their own stores. They soon became iconic across NYC even being famously included in Spike Lee movies and TV shows like Seinfeld. In 1995 there were around 2500 Korean groceries spread out across the city. Recently at the urging of the older generation younger members of the grocery families are focusing on higher education and upper class lifestyles. This trend combined with the gentrification of NYC and lower levels of Korean immigration has meant the number of Korean groceries has fallen. Other new immigrants are filling the gap but there are still thousands of family owned Korean corner stores providing fresh produce across the city.
8. Irish pack the Police and Fire departments
America famously absorbed millions of immigrants from Ireland. Fleeing from harsh living conditions, poverty, and famine these Irish poured upon the American shores. The Irish, with little money to buy land settled in urban areas until in 1850, made up one quarter of the big cities on the Eastern seaboard. Seeking steady work thousands joined the low paying civil service sector, being employed as firemen and policemen. Soon there were multi generations of Irish in the force. This allowed the Irish families to rise in society’s class system until they were able to offer their children higher levels of education than they themselves had. This opened doors and granted social mobility. While there are still many Irish working as police officers, departments under pressure to hire visual minorities has changed the police force to better reflect the populations they serve.
7. Mormon G-Men
While always regarded as an oddity outside of their home state of Utah, Mormons jumped into the mainstream when Republican politician Mitt Romney made his run for President. The Mormon religion bans alcohol and its community prides itself with its high community spirit and reputation for trustworthiness. FBI generalissimo Herbert Hoover respected them so much that in the fledgling days of the FBI he sought out Mormons as he thought that their lack of drinking and work ethic would make them good agents. The CIA too sought out Mormons because of their religious beliefs. When Mormon men become adults they are pushed to travel the world for a few years to spread the word of God and Mormonism. When they return to America they are seasoned multi-lingual travelers whose patriotism and seeming incorruptibility makes them perfect candidates for the CIA.
6. Filipino Nurses
For decades the Philippines was part of America. This time spent under America’s sphere of influence has meant many shared cultural aspects as well as a long tradition of Filipino students traveling to America to study and work. Many women who traveled to America became nurses and returned to the Philippines to open nursing schools. Graduates from these schools then immigrated to America due to its high wages and ease of movement since until 1940 there was little, if any, immigration restrictions between America and the Philippines. Then after WWII multiple waves of Filipino nurses came to first work and then ended up settling in America. Filipinos only make up around 5% of the population of California yet in the state’s hospitals they hold around 20% of the nursing positions.
5. Chinese ran most laundries
Chinese immigration to America started around the time gold was discovered in California. Thousands of Chinese workers migrated to make their millions but when the gold ran out they turned to menial, low paid work like famously slaving away on the transcontinental railways. Their willingness to work for such low pay was the very reason that made Chinese labor so attractive to big business, but it also infuriated other sectors of 19th century America. Public pressure tapped down on immigration and suppressed the civil rights of Chinese workers. Soon Chinese lived in urban ghettos and their work opportunities were very limited. One of the only jobs they could do were running laundries. Classified as merchants, they were exempt from anti-Chinese laws that kept Chinese from most other employment. Soon all across the large urban centers of America the Chinese dominated the laundry business. Enterprising Chinese were still able to succeed against such restrictions including one laundry man, named John John, working in gold rush centers of California. Miners puzzled at his offers to do free laundry but quickly took advantage of his offer. It wasn’t until years later that it was revealed that John John was washing the clothes for free as the miners were covered in gold dust. Everyday he would collect the gold at the bottom of his washers, and after the rush ended he was set for life.
4. Sri Lankans run porn-video stores in NY
One of the longest wars ever fought in the modern age was the civil war in Sri Lanka between the minority Tamil Tigers and the Sinhala ethnic majority government of Sri Lanka. The fighting caused hundreds of thousands of Tamil and Sinhalese to flee Sri Lanka. While many settled across the strait in India many more spread all over the world including New York City. In the 60s Sri Lankan immigrants looking for cheap accommodation and friendly neighborhoods settled in the borough of Staten Island. As their family members and friends moved to America they settled nearby. This continued until new Sri Lankan immigrants started choosing Staten Island because of its large Sri Lankan community. Nowadays back in Sri Lanka everyone knows Staten Island more than some of the other famous New York boroughs like Bronx or Queens. As they settled the community started to look for a way to make a living in America. Since many of the war refugees came illegally they had to find work in the city’s underground economy. One place that didn’t ask a lot of questions were NYC’s notorious porn stores. Soon hundreds of Sri Lankans were working their way up the corporate ladders of the porn store industry until many saved enough to buy their own stores. They then hired from their community and the cycle continued. Now Sri Lankans are the largest ethnic group in New York’s porn store community.
3. Arabs in greater Detroit have a stranglehold on owning gas stations
When American auto companies started out sourcing factory jobs around the world America’s midwest suffered horribly. Large cities like Detroit that were built on industrial jobs crumbled and collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of Americans fled leaving in their wake rusting crumbling buildings, creating the rust belt. While Americans couldn’t get away fast enough new ethnic groups started to move in. One of these were the Middle Eastern Arabs. Perhaps thinking that Detroit’s collapse into crime and decay was nothing compared to the war torn region they were fleeing from, thousands of Arabs settled in the midwest (Motor City alone has around 250,000 Arabs). With cities like Detroit having its population empty out into the suburbs, cars and commuting became even more important. The commute made gas stations one of Detroit’s more stable economic niches. Seeing this Arabs, particularly Lebanese Arabs, snapped up gas stations. Now family owned service stations are almost exclusively owned by Arabs operating behind bulletproof glass.
2. Vietnamese who monopolize nail salons in Los Angeles
The monopoly the Vietnamese hold over nail salons in Los Angeles can be traced back to American actress Tippi Hedren. Famous for her roles in The Birds and Marnie with her wealth and fame she also became a social activist fighting for refugee populations and animal rights. After the fall of Vietnam to the communists in 1975 thousands of Vietnamese refugees fled the country and ended up in California. Seeking a way to integrate them into society Tippi Hedren paid for 20 Vietnamese refugees to train with her personal manicurist. These women went on to open nail salons. The salon industry was perfect for them, as it required little startup capital and not much training. Providing their services at a steep discount Vietnamese nail salons became a huge success. They began opening more salons and hiring more Vietnamese workers. In California’s 8000 nail salons almost 75% are owned and staffed by Vietnamese Americans.
1. Indians run the hotels/motels
Motels and hotels line the highways and cities throughout America. They are open 24hrs and so require long hours but they have don’t require a lot of specialized skills, your English speaking level isn’t important and best of all you can live in your business. All these factors have been incredibly appealing to Indian immigrants that were arriving in America. Of the motels across the States 50% are owned by people of Indian origin. Even more surprising is that when you look at these Indian immigrant hotel owners 70% of them have the surname, Patel. Historically in India Patel means that they are members of a Gujarati Hindu subcaste. The Patel name is so common that some American insurance companies thought that the Patels were con artists trying to make fraudulent insurance claims. To get around prejudice towards Indian hotel owners they grouped together to form the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (A.A.H.O.A.). Now the real estate values of A.A.H.O.A. members is estimated to hover around $38 billion. They employ 800,000 people across America and pay three quarters of a billion dollars a year in property taxes. Mit Amin one of the few Indian hotel owners who is not named Patel said “The hotel establishment once didn’t want to know about us, but now we are the establishment.”
Eric Yosomono has found his own economic niche in Japan, check it out!