New Report: Fraternities Help Mediocrities Succeed

Dan Wang points to a recent paper which suggests that joining a fraternity in college reduces your GPA by 0.25 points but increases your future income by 36 percent. For various reasons, this is a weak result and I wouldn’t take it very seriously except as a possible spur to further research.

However, suppose it’s true. Here’s what the authors say:

Our results indicate that college administrators face an important trade-off when they consider policies designed to limit fraternity life on campus: while such policies may significantly raise academic performance, these gains may come at a significant cost in terms of expected future income for their graduates.

I’d argue exactly the opposite: this paper puts another nail in the coffin of fraternities and sororities and eating clubs and so forth. Allow me to reframe the authors’ conclusion:

Our results provide empirical evidence that fraternities are just another way for social elites to keep themselves at the top regardless of actual performance. Those rejected by fraternities, even though they have higher GPAs, earn 36 percent less than those accepted by fraternities. This is further evidence, if any were needed, that college administrators face few trade-offs when they consider policies designed to limit fraternity life on campus.

That’s my read, anyway. And I don’t even have any big heartburn one way or the other about fraternities.

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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