College Greeks are known for high GPAs and making more money after graduating — but new research says it's not as straightforward as it seems

Screenshot/YouTubeGoing Greek might go poorly.
  • Joining a fraternity or sorority is often advertised as a way to connect with successful alums and boost your career.
  • A new study from Miami University found that students’ GPAs suffer after joining Greek life.
  • The study also found no evidence to support the idea that going Greek ultimately increases your income.

Being in Greek life coincides with more than a few markers of wild success: 85% of Supreme Court justices, 76% of US Senators, and 85% of Fortune 500 CEOs are fraternity men. The post-graduate benefits associated with Greek life factor heavily into many fraternity and sorority recruitment messages.

But recent research is pointing elsewhere. A paper from William Even and Austin Smith, two economics professors at Miami University, posits that joining Greek life not only doesn’t boost your salary, it reduces your GPA. The effects were most notable among men in fraternities and active pledges.

To measure this, Even and Smith analysed the GPAs of those who joined and did not join Greek life in their second semester of freshman year. Students at the large public university that Even and Smith researched aren’t able to join Greek life their first semester. They also looked at those who were suspended from Greek organisations, and how leaving Greek life changed their GPAs.

Those who joined Greek life graduated with lower GPAs than their first-semester performance would have indicated. What’s more, those who left Greek life saw their GPAs improve to what their first-semester performance predicted.

“This paper documents a substantial cost for the average member – reduced academic performance – which should be considered in conjunction with the other costs and benefits of Greek life,” the researchers wrote.

Sorority and fraternity members did have a higher GPA than their non-Greek classmates. But that’s at least partially because members are often required to keep above a 2.5 GPA to stay in the organisation.

“While Greek organisations are quick to point out that their members have GPAs above their institution specific averages, this simple statistic does not demonstrate that membership improves academic performance,” the researchers wrote. “A key factor driving these differences is that many Greek organisations impose minimum GPA requirements for joining a chapter.”

But what about their salaries?

A 2016 study from Union College in upstate New York also found that the oft-parroted stat that Greek life members have a higher GPA doesn’t reflect the full picture. Fraternity membership sank final GPAs by .25 points, the researchers found.

On the other hand, their income was an impressive 36% higher compared to those who didn’t join Greek life.

“These results suggest that fraternity membership causally produces large gains in social capital, which more than outweigh its negative effects on human capital for potential members,” the Union College researchers wrote.

But some argue that it’s not the Greek organisation that leads to success, but external factors.

“It’s not that fraternities breed leaders, but that the young men who are drawn to – and successfully navigate – the fraternity system choose and succeed in that path for precisely the same reason they will go on to become successful leaders,” author Maria Konnikova wrote for The Atlantic in 2014.

The type of person who ends up in Greek life is also poised for success in a country where coming from wealth, being white, and being male are some of the greatest predictors for success.

At Princeton University, around three-quarters of those in Greek life are white compared to 47% of the student body, according to The Century Foundation. Nearly a third of fraternity members and 19% of sorority members were legacy admits. More than a quarter of Princeton Greek organisation members were from the top 1%.

Regardless of those stats, the Miami University study suggests that going Greek doesn’t have an impact on one’s salary. The researchers argued that that oft-reported pay boost relates more to their chosen area of study.

“Little if any salary premium represents the causal impact of Greek affiliation,” Even and Smith wrote.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.