NPR Story
2:49 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Does College Pledging Lead To Greater Happiness And Success?

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 11:59 am

Fraternities and sororities get a bad wrap for wild parties, hazing and binge drinking, but a new survey finds that those who pledge in college have the last laugh — or at least more laughs than others.

A survey of more than 30,000 university graduates found that for students who belonged to fraternities and sororities, life after college is happier and they tend to be more successful.

The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Bellini discusses the first-of-its-kind survey by The Gallup-Purdue index with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.


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This is HERE AND NOW from NPR and WBUR Boston. I'm Jeremy Hobson. When you think of college fraternities and sororities, what comes to mind? Is it partying? Drinking? Maybe something like "Animal House"?


TIMOTHY MATHESON: (Otter) You can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few sick, perverted individuals. And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general?

HOBSON: Well, a new study finds that people who participated in fraternities and sororities may actually have the last laugh. The survey by Gallop and Purdue University find students who go Greek are happier and more successful later in life. Joining us to talk about the survey is Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Bellini. Hi, Jason.

JASON BELLINI: Hi there, Jeremy.

HOBSON: So the journal lays this out today and says that students who go Greek have higher engagement in their jobs and a better sense of well-being. How did they determine that?

BELLINI: How did they determine that? Of course, everyone wants to know, where does this come from? Well, there was a survey that was just conducted, happened in the spring - Gallop, Purdue. And they surveyed 30,000 university graduates.

And it wasn't all about just Greek life. This was about, in general, how do people feel about their lives after graduating from college. And they were talking to people from all walks of life. And they went for really subjective measures - life satisfaction at both home and at work.

HOBSON: And they pinpointed that people who were in fraternities and sororities were more satisfied with their lives later. Was that the defining factor?

BELLINI: Well, it was a finding that - the people who did the surveys themselves were sort of surprised when they discovered this - when they were digging into the numbers and they found this correlation that Greeks have higher engagement in their jobs, as you mentioned. They have a better sense of well-being. They're less stressed about money. They have more supported social lives. They're physically healthier. They're able to hold their liquor better. Actually, that wasn't on there. But it's probably true. And they were more likely to have taken part in internships and had a connection with a professor. So, you know, on a whole number of quantitative and qualitative measures, Greeks did really well.

HOBSON: And how popular are these fraternities and sororities now among - certainly, when I was in college, they were very popular. But has the next generation stayed involved with fraternities and sororities to the same degree?

BELLINI: They have indeed. And it's been said about the millennial generation that they tend to gravitate towards institutions. And these are - Greek life is certainly a hallowed tradition on many American campuses.

The number of active members in the nation's fraternities climbed nearly 40 percent from 2005 to 2013. This comes from the North American Interfraternity Conference - so huge growth. Part of that might be more young people are going to college because there's a, you know, larger cohort of people who are attending institutions.

HOBSON: Now, Greek life aside, this survey also found that only 39 percent of all college graduates feel engaged at work, that they like what they're doing.

BELLINI: That's right, compared to 43 percent for Greek graduates. You know, and also, they found that the Greeks strongly agree that their institution prepared them for college as compared to 27 percent for non-Greeks. And, you know, one of the interesting questions that comes out of this is what is it about Greek life? Is it Greek life itself?

There's anecdotal stories from people who say - that were, you know, in part of our reporting here - that say, you know what? It was great because I made some connections. And, you know, I have a boss who's from the same fraternity. We have that in common.

But, you know, another factor may be - and an important one to not - that we really should mention here is that students who pledge fraternities, they're not as saddled with student debt. Only 42 percent of Greeks took out loans to pay for their undergraduate education compared with 49 percent of non-Greeks. So not having college debt, I could see how that could make you a little happier.

HOBSON: Absolutely. I wonder what that's about, though. We'll have to do another segment just all about that. Why are they not taking out as much money to go to college. Jason Bellini of The Wall Street Journal, thanks as always.

BELLINI: Hey, thank you.

HOBSON: This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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