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The Cooperative Business Study


The Cooperative Business Study (CBS) is focused on business management in cooperative enterprise. Initially we are focusing on governance by interviewing by telephone the CEO (or GM) and the chair of the board of directors of several hundred member-owned businesses throughout the United States. Subsequent phases of CBS will address financial, human resource, and other management topics. The aim of the study is to understand differences in how member-owned businesses (cooperatives, credit unions and mutuals) manage their operations compared with other types of corporations.

Our long-term goal is to use the results of this study to bring to light the unique practices and contributions of member-owned businesses in the corporate world. We hope to use the findings of this study to expose students in business, law and other social sciences to member-owned businesses and to explain their distinctive role in the economy. We also plan to develop educational and support materials to help business professionals better manage their own member-owned businesses.

The Study Population

Firms are selected into the CBS study population through a series of stratified random samples of the national census of cooperative firms developed in the UWCC’s Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives (REIC) project.

Firms have been added to the CBS study population periodically as needed to supply interviewers with subjects. The sampling is stratified mainly by business sector because a simple random sample would have reproduced the sectoral distribution in the REIC universe, in which firms in the housing, credit union and agriculture sectors predominate. The distribution of sectors in each addition of firms has been influenced by the sectoral distribution of interviews in the prior period and our intention that the result should be a useful but not excessive number of firms in most sectors. The housing sector, as an exception, is excluded altogether.

At times the selection of new firms for the CBS study population has also been stratified by cooperative type independent of sector. Worker-owned co-ops, in fact, have been entirely excluded, while purchasing co-ops have been somewhat over-represented in comparison to their very small proportion of the REIC universe.


All the information collected in the course of our research project will remain absolutely confidential and no single firm or person is or will be identified as a survey respondent. We will report only aggregate data and statistics that summarize informative patterns of behavior and practice. Data products made public by the project do not contain data that could permit identification of firms or survey respondents.

Public Data Products

The CBS database comprises two main main units of analysis:

  1. Responses of CEO/GMs or board chairs to survey questions. These questions pertain to the respondent's responsibilities in his or her firm, the respondent's own background, and the respondent's perception and description of the firm's governance processes. This is the Respondent unit of analysis.
  2. Data about cooperative firms. We have collected a modest amount of background data on thousands of firms, but we have released for public analysis only the data we have accumulated about firms for which there is at least one finished individual survey. This is the Firm unit of analysis. Some of the Firm-level data has been gathered by staff work, but most of it comes from survey responses.

To researchers who have an interest in analysis of the CBS data, we can release separate files of the Respondent and Firm data. Please send a request for a copy of the analysis files to the project director, Brent Hueth. A selective nondisclosure understanding is required as a condition of releasing the data.

Go to our Public Data Distribution page to download

  1. PDF files containing images of the CBS survey instruments.
  2. Detailed documentation of the public datasets.