Animal House is nearly four decades old, but its vivid depiction of debauchery still leads parents to fret about whether their college-bound son should join a fraternity. New research suggests the answer depends on whether you'd rather he excel academically or prosper economically.
In the journal Contemporary Economic Policy, Jack Mara, Lewis Davis, and Stephen Schmidt analyze the results of a 2009 survey completed by 1,632 alumni of a liberal arts college in the American Northeast. They noted the graduates' grade-point average (back then) and average annual income (now). Using statistical methods to control for variables like the quality of non-fraternity housing options students had over the decades, the researchers found fraternity membership lowers a student's grade-point average by 0.25 points (on a four-point scale), but increases future income by 36.2 percent. They write that membership "produces large gains in social capital"—a reference to the ability to tap into a network of fellow brothers. By this measure, at least, who you know truly does trump what you know.