The Irish diaspora as bar entrepreneurs : a comparative study between Birmingham (UK) and Chicago (US)
This research seeks to establish the Irish migrant experience within extant sociological theories of ethnic entrepreneurship. The comparative study highlights the interface between the Irish migration experience and bar entrepreneurship within Birmingham (UK) and Chicago (US). Three interrelated primary aims characterise the research. Firstly, to explain why the Irish diaspora is excluded from ethnic entrepreneurship debates and to show where their experience as bar entrepreneurs 'fits' within the established literature. Secondly, to argue that the 'racist' stereotype of the Irish and drink as synonymous impacts upon the Irish migrant bar proprietor in the sense that the niche is perceived as a 'natural' form of economic activity. Thirdly, to show how opportunities for economic upward mobility within the niche are greater for the Irish in Chicago compared to Birmingham. A theory of ethnic entrepreneurship, termed the `interactive'model, serves as a conceptual framework for addressing the primary aims. The methodology includes cross -national qualitative field work. During the research process 42 semi-structured interviews were conducted in Irish run bars, of which 21 are in Chicago and 21 in Birmingham. To preserve the anonymity of the respondents none of the respondents are mentioned by name or establishment. A number of conclusions are presented below with regard to the original aims: (1) the ethnic entrepreneurship theories commenced from a narrowly defined framework which excluded the form of self employment in which the Irish are overrepresented; (2) an explanation of why the Irish remain ghettoised in particular jobs requires an understanding of their migration tradition; (3) the niche of bar proprietor is perceived as a 'natural' form of self employment because of the 'racist' stereotype of the Irish and drink as synonymous; (4) the stereotype has not prevented the Irish from achieving economic success within the US; (5) during the time this research was operationalised bar entrepreneurship did not afford a greater opportunity for upward mobility in Chicago compared to Birmingham; (6) the bar business is a vulnerable labour intensive form of economic activity which occupies a subordinate relationship with the state and larger capitals; (7) the economic strategy of constructing a 'stage Irish identity' within a bar links to the `racist'stereotype that bars are the 'natural' habitat of the Irish.