Mixed Embeddedness: (In)formal Economic Activities and Immigrant Businesses in the Netherlands


Immigrants from non‐industrialized countries have become part and parcel of the social fabric of many advanced urban economies, including those in the Netherlands. A significant number of these migrants opt for setting up shop themselves. Lacking access to large financial resources and mostly lacking in educational qualifications, they are funnelled towards the lower end of the opportunity structure of these urban economies. To survive in these cut‐throat markets, many migrant entrepreneurs revert to informal economic activities that are strongly dependent on specific social networks – mostly consisting of co‐ethnics – to sustain these activities on a more permanent basis. To understand the social position of these migrant entrepreneurs and their chances of upward social mobility, one has to look beyond these co‐ethnic networks and focus on their insertion in the wider society in terms of customers, suppliers and various kinds of business organizations. To deal with this latter type of insertion, we propose the use of a more comprehensive concept of mixed embeddedness that aims at incorporating both the co‐ethnic social networks as well as the linkages (or lack of linkages) between migrant entrepreneurs and the economic and institutional context of the host society. We illustrate this concept by presenting a case study of Islamic butchers in the Netherlands.