New research from School of Economics provides experimental evidence that cooperative businesses harbor greater economically relevant behavioral cooperation than comparable businesses. The research, conducted with recent graduate students Ethan Tremblay and Afton Hupper was recently published in the Journal of Co-operative Organization and Management. For the project, the research team conducted behavioral economic experiments with shoppers at a food coop and a traditional grocery in a small town in Maine. The economic experiment measured “unenforced altruism,” or the willingness of shoppers to give a some of their experimental payment to another anonymous shopper at the same store.
The team found not only that behavioral cooperation was higher among co-op shoppers than those at a traditional grocery, and that this remained true when controlling for age, sex, and education. These findings, if supported in further studies, will have important implications for how we manage and regulate co-operatives.