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Joining a Fraternity May Hurt GPA but Can Boost Future Income by 36%, Says Study

A study reveals the unexpected financial benefits of joining a fraternity.
Cast of the film “Animal House”. 1978. Credit: Universal Pictures.

Fraternity culture has been under attack for incidents of hazing and excessive drinking but there are some unexpected benefits that come from joining a frat. That’s the conclusion of a new study by economists from Union College in Schenectady, New York. They found that being in a fraternity may lower the GPA of its members by an average of 0.25 points, but may raise their future income by as much as 36%. 

How is that possible? The paper titled “Social Animal House: The Economic and Academic Consequences of Fraternity Membership” suggests that while frats may have a deserved reputation for partying and binge-drinking, being in one can boost your social capital, “which more than outweigh(s) its negative effects on human capital for potential members.”

The benefits provided by the Greek life include academic support and social connections that last a lifetime.

To arrive at their conclusions, the researchers Stephen Schmidt, Lewis Davis and Jack Mara analyzed a survey of one Northeastern college, given to 3,762 alumni which had questions related to income, employment, social activities while in college, personal characteristics and academic performance.

“In spite of the strong negative effect on human capital accumulation, fraternity membership increases expected future income by approximately 36%,” write the scientists. This suggests that the negative effect of fraternity membership on human capital accumulation is more than offset by its positive impact on social capital formation. For this reason, joining a fraternity may be a rational decision that improves the long-term prospects of an individual student despite its damaging effects on that student’s grades.

The researchers found no similar benefits for women who pledged to sororities.

You can read their paper, published in the journal Contemporary Economic Policyhere.


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