Greek life isn’t as good as you thought

Using records from a large public university, we examine the impact of Greek life on academic performance and salaries. To isolate the causal effect of Greek life, we exploit a university policy prohibiting students from joining a Greek organization during their first semester and a minimum GPA for subsequent eligibility. Regression discontinuity and panel methods reveal that Greek affiliation reduces student grades by 0.1-0.3 standard deviations. Greek effects are largest during the semester of pledging, semesters of increased social activities, and for males. We find no evidence of a Greek salary premium and rule out even modest positive effects.

That is from a new paper by William E. Even and Austin C. Smith, being presented at the AEa meetings this week.



Fraternity men tend to earn higher salaries after college than non-fraternity men with higher GPAs, according to Bloomberg News. They also dominate business and politics. Fraternity members make up about 76 percent of U.S. senators, 85 percent of Supreme Court justices and 85 percent of Fortune 500 executives, according to The Atlantic.

US undergrad population 16 million, undergrad population involved in Greek life 7 million.

So, 425 top executives out of a population of 7 million. Greek life makes the difference!

Please to pay attention to relative %'s of financial success

9-6? Me a emory, insufficient gait, run as fast as you can, birds are older than dogs, Chicks are better than drugs

"Please to pay attention to relative %'s of financial success"

And what are the incomes of their parents?

The students who drive Mercedes Benzes while in college do well after they graduate too. But that doesn't mean that driving a Mercedes is what caused their good postgrad incomes, and the same for being in a frat during college.

Besides, the abstract says this: "We find no evidence of a Greek salary premium and rule out even modest positive effects.".

lot of butt-hurt peeps here, please to admit reality--geek bros do v. well

It’s entirely possible for both your statistics and the paper’s to be correct. Greeks may tend to choose higher-paying professions than non-Greeks (e.g. business vs English), but it still might be true that, with such choices and attributes controlled for, joining a fraternity reduces wages. It’s also possible that Greek life is a high-risk strategy for high-SES roles, i.e. joining a fraternity on average suppresses your later SES, but increases your (very tiny) chance of landing in a very high SES role. As a rule, statistics about extreme tails are a dangerous way to gauge correlations, and correlations are what you really want to know, because they average with the appropriate weighting over the entire spectrum of outcomes.

High risk strategy, that's the issue.

For every multi-million NFL contract, there are thousands of guys with broken tendons who are too injured to work physically and also never developed the brains for white collar jobs. The group of injured guys plus the superstar may have a lower average income compared to a boring group that finished college and landed boring middle class jobs.

Greek life may be similar to sports and can produce both outcomes: a booster and obstacle for higher future income.

Frat bro at which school matters a ton. Supreme Court justices all went to Harvard Yale or Columbia for law school, and most to prestigious undergrad institutions too. Similar skew I’m sure for Fortune 500 CEOs. Being a frat boy at Harvard is I’m guessing more valuable than at James Madison University. If you’re at a low-tier college, you should be focusing, working hard, getting good grades, and keeping your nose clean, and maybe someone will let you into a decent entry level job of professional degree program afterwards. If you’re at Yale, you’ve already got that in the bag just by virtue of having gotten into Yale. What you need is to make lasting connections with your classmates and recent alumni who are on their way to or already in powerful positions. And your social skills could probably use some practice anyway.

Bottom line, it’s easy to see why frats are probably terrible for people at run of the mill colleges and fine or even good for people at very prestigious universities (career-wise, anyway—the question of morals and character is another story).

No more Animal House. Except that John "Bluto" Blutarsky became a senator.

My wife's new Afro-American boyfriend introduced me to the Greek Life! How humiliating! Tee hee!!

Link to those stats?

These aren't the metrics that anyone joining a fraternity cares about improving.

They don't care about improving their salaries?

Max is 100% correct, and even Tyler knows that.

But Tyler is just doing his duty as a good liberal here. College fraternities are on the Lefty Shit List, and anything Tyler can post to dissuade people from joining, no matter how irrelevant or poorly researched ("Joining a frat will not result in better skin clarity!!!!") is going to go right up on MR.

For those in reality -- boys join frats for better access to pu**y. Got any paper handy on how that's working out for them, Ty?

My freshman year, on my dorm floor, about 20% of the fraternity pledges ended up on academic probation after their first semester.

Of course, there were also a couple of people in my academic scholarship group - the school’s most prestigious - who ended up on academic probation too. Some eighteen-year-olds simply aren't mature enough to live away from home without strict supervision.

I blame Trump.

An irrelevant, completely anecdotal stat without evidence, immediately followed by a statement that renders that stat entirely moot, which is then followed by a shot at Trump that even the author is too disinterested to identify as sarcastic or otherwise.

Ladies and gentlemen -- we have found the Model MR Comment. It's like the Singularity, if you will. Let us print it out so we can bronze it for future generations!

If only you had traits that would allow you to recognize when someone was on your side you may have been organized enough to get that wall built.

Hold on, everyone -- we have a strong candidate for Runner Up Model MR Comment.

I know, the Complete Non-Sequitir Comment is often ignored here, and for good reason -- it's a low-effort troll, and you often can't tell if the author is hammered or on meth -- but you if you've labored through reading this blog for long enough, you cannot deny its ubiquity, and that should count for something.

I say we bronze the first comment, and then memorialize this one in papier-mache. Done? Done.

Six guys from my high school class of 1976 joined the same fraternity at UCLA and were all suspended or expelled for poor grades by June 1977.

Of course life is no good for contemporary Greeks. For one thing, they don’t have their own currency to devalue, so they can be competitive.

One wonders if this is a relatively recent phenomenon. At Virginia’s premier public institution, greek grade reports have been published since forever and both sororities and fraternities outperformed on average the non-greek population. The feminization of the educational credentials industry may have something to do with the male greek plunge, unhinged hatred of males becoming a defining feature of such businesses. Nevertheless, as always, the aggregate data conceals more than it reveals. Greek houses perform across a range of levels, some much better than others. The lesson should be “Pledge Wisely.”

It may be useful to recall too that the purpose of greek life is much nobler than the blind pursuit of filthy lucre. Entities like GMU whose raison d'etre is pumping out programmers for Google, seem to have lost touch with what was once an overriding concerning of schooling, and a concern that largely exists only within the greek system in contemporary culture, that is producing ladies and gentlemen of quality. Most greek organizations call their members to high standards of behavior and aspiration, genuinely attempting to promote a higher culture of mutual respect, trust, and support. A typical statement are the "9 Expectations" of one inter-organizational umbrella group:

I will know and understand the ideals expressed in my fraternity ritual and will strive to incorporate them in my daily life.
I will strive for academic achievement and practice academic integrity.
I will respect the dignity of all persons; therefore I will not physically, mentally, psychologically or sexually abuse or harm any human being.
I will protect the health and safety of all human beings.
I will respect my property and the property of others; therefore, I will neither abuse nor tolerate the abuse of property.
I will meet my financial obligations in a timely manner.
I will neither use nor support the use of illegal drugs; I will neither misuse nor support the misuse of alcohol.
I acknowledge that a clean and attractive environment is essential to both physical and mental health; therefore, I will do all in my power to see that the chapter property is properly cleaned and maintained.
I will challenge all my fraternity members to abide by these fraternal expectations and will confront those who violate them.

Such character elevating programs are priceless and one cannot doubt that even if a product of such a way of thinking might happen to earn on average a little less than some drone broken to a life of toil in the cubicles off the new overlords, their lives must be immeasurably more complete and healthier.

Here is a thought experiment, what would happen if a faculty were held to the standards of the nine expectations listed above?

Ye olde universities, of course, actually assumed all their entrants were already "of quality" because they were already young gentlemen - let's not pretend that the neo-reactos care about women - and that the gentlemen would be of equal quality if they chose military service or the church. Realistically, the U.S. "Greek" system is about access to alcohol for slightly upper-middle class lads.

There are over 6 million young men involved in Greek life. Someone above posted a statement of their ethical rules, which a quick internet skim reveals as typical for such organizations. Typical and sensible. (And, to use an older term, wholesome.) Yet you see fit to slander these millions as “neo-reactos“ — on the basis of what, please? Do you have any stats that show that this group commits more crimes (e.g.) than the average non-Greek undergraduate?

"I will neither misuse nor support the misuse of alcohol."

Ha. I guess it depends on the definition of "misuse"...

Bravo, Edgar, this is brilliant satire. Great tip-off, too—the reader thinks you’re talking about notoriously fratty U.Va. and then you link to William and Mary’s website!!

“Men and women of quality”—that was a real rib splitter. And then to actually cite the “principles” these imbecile institutions place on their websites, fantastic stuff.

Edgar and I are both hip to what frats really are: party insurance, literally and figuratively. There will always be a party, it can be as wild as you like, you’re invited, and your bedroom is just upstairs. Also, if something goes wrong, that’s why you pay dues to national—legal fees. There’s also the brotherhood that’s built via engagement in mutually degrading acts (see, e.g., hell week). Not totally dissimilar to how sweet gangs work, except there’s less courage in a fraternity.

Face it Edgar, fraternities are about feeling cool, making friends through a stilted process because you’re too socially inept to make them naturally, and getting laid (often under very unseemly circumstances, the kind that give some legitimacy to the discussions about campus rape). They ought to be abolished.

This is a bit like the Chilean sexist economists study. Applied micro is great and all, but it looks more impressive than it is because no-one in a seminar points out that these clever samples are totally non-global in applicability.

Did they calculate how many Greeks have hot Filipina girlfriends half their age?

Not immediately obvious to non yanks what this Greek life is.

Or even this native born Yank; it took me several moments to realize that Tyler was talking about college organizations rather than the European country.

Might want to ask the colleges what percentage of their alumni donors were greeks. My experience is that it far exceeds their percentage of the student body.

Exactly right. If you're wondering why these Hallowed Institutions are eagerly supporting these frats that trash their campuses, demean and abuse their women, and push everyone down the road to alcoholism.... well, it's the same reason Dems eagerly support open borders and letting criminals out of prison.

They believe it cements their power, and to hell with everyone else.

I am surprised that there is so much defensiveness on this issue. C'mon, people join fraternities to party. Nothing wrong with that. (As Kavanaugh said, "I liked beer, I still like beer.") It's not surprising that partying can have a detrimental effect on grades. (Not everyone's grades need to suffer for the *average* to drop. As long as some people's grades decline while no one's grades improve due to partying, then the average effect will be a decline.) It's also not surprising that partying doesn't lead to an improvement in future salaries.

regression discontinuity = convincing

Cheap comment without having read the paper (sorry authors): the use of the "minimum GPA for eligibility" doesn't remove selection effects; maybe the young men who desperately want to go Greek (a particular group, let's suppose) work especially hard in their first semester, and then once they get in they revert to their own (particular) academic mean. Without controlling for this unobserved effort, one might conclude that going Greek reduces GPA trajectory. This could be true even if the particular mean of the Greekward-bound was the same as that of the broader student population; and note that in _that_ case the Greek system would be _raising_ their GPA via the first-semester effort, no matter what the regression says.

Again, have not read the paper. Perhaps something about the specification addresses this.

PS: the mean reversion could happen even absent the effort effect. Maybe those who get themselves to the Greek are just the thirsty slacker dudes who happened to have positive GPA shocks in their first semester.

Sorry, that was in response to my own comment just above.

And a further comment, which is not really directed at the paper's results. The US does not (it seems to me, as a transplant from Europe with sons) to offer many opportunities for sizeable groups of young men to bond _intensely_ outside of sports teams. [And even there they cannot drink! The contemporaneous consumption of beers after a victory or defeat, either intra- or inter-team, is quite important.]

This is really the first comment that I really liked. People complain about a lack of meaning and increase in loneliness and then at the same time complain about private associations that bring people together. Boggles my mind.

One positive message from "the Manosphere" is that men should make more effort to get together, share tasks, hobbies, projects etc. -- as too many existing "male spaces" are under assault as politically incorrect.

(I was on one softball team that lost its first 13 games. For some male-bonding we would stand out in the convenience-store parking lot and drink after each game. When we finally won one we went inside to drink! At Lum's, the place with the beer-steamed hot dogs.)

We dormies always just laughed at the preening frat studs and sorority princesses, but you can see how the Greek system is under fire from the nasty and jealous left.

Lets not beat around the bush here. The main benefit being in a frat is social. That is, access to hotter women. The universities with a Greek system, mainly the large "state" universities, clearly have a social caste system with the Greeks at the top. The most attractive women are in the sororities and, usually, will date only frat guys. This is just the way it is.

If frat guys have higher incomes, all things being considered, it is most certainly due to the networking affect (Most Frats are nation-wide with many chapters) that benefits one in their career.

It had to be, thus, a disingenuous program perpetuated with full-knowledge by the advertising platforms, themselves, who, by the way, were the victims of fraud, as much as twenty-five percent of net revenue.

At my school you joined greek fraternities to drink and get laid.

Our dorm floor had no problem meeting and surpassing those criteria.

Seriously, I can see the appeal of pledging to Greek life if your freshman dorm is a dreary high-rise with drab, reclusive, atomized students and a total mis-fit roomie.

I deliberately picked out a dorm that was oddly human-scaled for such a big Midwestern U, and our little floor had a great esprit d'corps. The diversity was amazing in real terms -- different nutty people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Wow, pledging and partying can on average degrade the grades of Greek students who are above-average to begin with. Good heavens! Let's ban alcohol and pledging for those poor kids, or better yet send them back to dorms that are...well, gee, those probably have parties and alcohol too. What's a good Puritan to do?

More seriously, anyone with experience with these systems knows that frats and sororities vary considerably between universities, and within them as well. You can often find a studious house just up the street from the drunkards. Those who are more socially inclined might also pursue their non-coursework interests in any context, so blaming the Greek system for social distractions could be a stretch.

Advice to students remains unchanged: Recognize that there is a range of social attitudes across frats or sororities at any university. Contrary to the authors, invest the full amount of time and effort in the pledging process to help assure a good fit between you and your new colleagues. Get involved in leadership, you will learn some valuable things. And never make your friends carry you home and clean you up, not even once.

Advice to university administrators remains unchanged: Don't act like jerks towards Greek houses just because of what they are. Do draw sensible behavioral lines and enforce them towards all student groups, frats and sororities included.

Advice to authors: Take your clever study design and look at more than just one university before presuming to advise the whole nation on this.

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