Gender- and Race-Based Inequalities in Democratic Worker-Owned Firms: Evidence from the First National Survey of the Sector (Working Paper #1) - CLEO Skip to main content


Worker cooperative practitioners and developers often claim that democratic worker ownership advances egalitarianism within and beyond the workplace, but most of the empirical evidence in the U.S. is based on ethnographic case studies or small-scale surveys. We leverage the first national survey about individuals’ experiences in these unique firms to ask if claims that co-ops mitigate gendered and racial inequality generalize to the broader sector. Our findings are consistent with previous studies in suggesting that cooperatives can empower women and people of color, but in some ways may continue to reproduce broader processes of social stratification. In particular, we document a sector-wide gender wage gap reflecting widespread occupational segregation. We also find that while the sector is quite diverse, White men continue to own a disproportionate amount of cooperative capital. Non-material indicators of workplace autonomy and governance participation governance appear to be determined largely by workers’ positions within their firms and indirectly related to identity.

This paper is part of the Working Paper Series of the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations.