Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 5-2017


Buying clubs arise when a group of individuals convenes to use their collective purchasing power to obtain bulk quantities of items, in this case food, at per-unit prices lower than offered by traditional grocers, or specialty items that are difficult to find. As cooperatively-structured groups, it is hypothesized that they function on the core principles of cooperation, reciprocity and other prosocial behaviors which support the benefit of the group rather than individual benefit. This research aims to test this by observing, identifying and analyzing behaviors which are instrumental in the success or failure of buying clubs, and by measuring cooperation empirically with two experimental economic games. I am interested in the relationship between institutions and cooperation, and one way to examine this is through the work of Elinor Ostrom. We examined the influence of institutional factors including cooperation, measures of participation, and successful collective action to see if they were greater among members of buying clubs with more rules corresponding to Elinor Ostrom’s institutional design principles. While no strong association between the design principles and buying club cooperation was found, participants in this survey donated nearly twice the expected percent of their endowment in each experimental game, suggesting that the buying club members in this study are more cooperative on average than members of the general public.