The prospect of ‘being your own boss’ is prominently featured both within academia and general public discourse. While self-employment is often associated with independent entrepreneurship, it has increasingly become a form of precarious work and therefore a serious challenge for modern societies based on the welfare state. At the same time, researchers in Western Europe leave the question largely unanswered as to what degree entrepreneurship is precarious, particularly among disadvantaged groups. This is partly because a standardized operationalization of precarious work is lacking.
In this study, we examine the extent of precarious migrant self-employment vis-à-vis natives nationally using data from the German Microcensus, while simultaneously introducing a replicable operationalization for precarious work. Using this paradigm, we indeed uncover a higher effect of migrants on precariousness overall, confirming the common narrative about migrant entrepreneurship in public discourse. Every fourth migrant self-employed works under precarious conditions, while this is the case only for every fifth German native. This difference however, is not very large (6 per cent). Taking post-Fordism into account, we cannot prove that migrants are especially prone to be the subject of post-Fordist work arrangements. However, our data provide firm evidence for the assumption of many scholars that cultural professions often lead to precarious working conditions. Our results are more likely to replicate those European countries with comparable socio-economic context and immigration history, for example Austria or Switzerland.