Why did Chinese immigrants to America start so many restaurants? Because Chinese cuisine is glorious, right? Well, no. Chinese immigrants started a lot of laundries, too, and there is nothing wonderful about Chinese ways of washing clothes. As Jennifer Lee explains in this excellent talk, the first Chinese immigrants were laborers. They were taking jobs away from American men, and this caused problems. Restaurants and laundries were much safer immigrant jobs because cooking and cleaning were women’s work.
A character in Jane Jacobs’s The Nature of Economies says this:
This is why societies that are oppressive to women and contemptuous of their work are so backward economically. Half of their population, doing economically important kinds of work, such cooking and food processing, cleaning and laundering, making garments, and concocting home remedies, are excluded from taking initiatives to develop all that work [that is, start businesses] — and nobody else does it, either.
My grandparents, Jewish immigrants, were in the garment industry. Now I can guess why.