Thwarted or Facilitated? The Entrepreneurial Aspirations and Capabilities of New Migrants in the UK

María Villares-Varela*, Monder Ram, Trevor Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article draws on biographical interviews with migrants to assess their aspirations and capabilities to become entrepreneurs. By augmenting mixed embeddedness emphasis on contextual factors with Sen’s capabilities framework, we contribute to extant sociological debates on the interaction of structure and agency, the conceptualisation of aspirations, the non-pecuniary aspects of entrepreneurship and the role of institutions in neoliberal Britain. We argue that structural barriers drive the formation of aspirations to become entrepreneurs while at the same time limit their capabilities to do so. Entrepreneurial agency must be seen as relative autonomy, effective in strategic decision making but limited to the weak financial position in which migrant entrepreneurs operate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1140-1158
Issue number6
Early online date12 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: the project ‘The aspirations and capabilities of migrant and refugee entrepreneurs’ (2015–2017) was co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account (University of Birmingham), and the social enterprise Ashley Community & Housing (ACH) Ltd.


  • UK
  • agency
  • aspirations
  • capabilities
  • entrepreneurship
  • migration
  • refugees
  • structure


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