Does the Oscar curse exist?

Actress wins Oscar. Shortly afterwards, actress experiences break-up. Anecdotal evidence of the “Oscar curse”has been much discussed in the press.

Sandra Bullock won an award for her 2009 film “The Blind Side”, and then separated from her husband Jesse James. I should here admit that I have no idea who Jesse James is, but a quick glance at his Wikipedia page (it was too dull to read the whole thing through) suggests that he builds motorbikes, eats burgers and is more tattoo than man. Perhaps the breakup wasn’t too surprising, judging by Ms Bullock’s wide-ranging choices of film scripts over the years.

Halle Berry won an Oscar for 2001 film Monster’s Ball, and a couple of years later, separated from Eric Benet. I don’t really know who Mr Benet is either. Do I need to read more celebrity magazines? No. The wailing “ooooh arhhhhh” sounds on the first ten seconds of his song “Spend my life with you” tells me all I need to know, and frankly, should have told Halle too.

I would go on with a few more examples, but I fear my knowledge of the personal lives of Hollywood actresses is already being stretched too far. So, away from the anecdotes and on to some meaty statistical analysis.

H Colleen Stuart from Carnegie Mellon University, Sue Moon and Tiziana Casciaro from the University of Toronto analysed the impact of receiving an Academy Award nomination on the chances of marriage survival. They find that Oscar wins are associated with a greater risk of divorce for actresses, but not actors. In particular, they say “a Best Actress winner’s risk of divorce is 1.68 times the risk of a Best Actress non-winner’s”.

Why? The asymmetry between actors and actresses indicates that traditional gender roles may play a part: specifically the unwritten rule that it’s a bit odd when the woman earns more, or has a higher social status than the man. Whether this is because of the man’s discomfort with the situation, or the woman’s dissatisfaction is an interesting question.

 The full paper is here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1749612

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