Best Actress Oscar winners are more likely to divorce than Best Actor winners

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Best Actress Oscar winners divorce more quickly than Best Actor winners

Is there an Oscar curse for women who win the Best Actress award? According to a new study, the answer is a definite yes.

After examining the marital histories of 751 movie stars nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars between 1936 and 2010, researchers at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management found that women who win Oscars in the Best Actress category faced a much greater risk of divorce than men who win Best Actor awards. They also face a much greater risk than the losing Best Actress nominees.

The researchers said they were motivated to study the topic because much has been made anecdotally of an "Oscar Curse." A news story about it last year cited the divorces of Best Actress winner for 2009 Sandra Bullock, 2008 winner Kate Winslet, 2005 winner Reese Witherspoon, 2004 winner Hilary Swank and 2001 winner Halle Berry.

But is there any "theoretical merit to, and empirical evidence for, the Oscar Curse?" they asked in their study."Why might these much-admired women have greater difficulty in sustaining their marriages than their male counterparts?"

In fact, the researchers found that on average, Best Actress winners tended to stay married 4.3 years, while the non-winning nominees' marriages lasted more than twice as long, 9.5 years. Meanwhile, men who won Oscars for Best Actor suffered no similar increase in divorce rates when compared with non-winners. The winners stayed married on average just under 12 years while the non-winners lasted just over 12 years. (This being Hollywood, the researchers also included common-law relationships involving shared property or children in their statistical analysis.)

"Oscar wins are associated with a greater risk of divorce for Best Actresses, but not for Best Actors," wrote the authors of the study, which came out last week.

They speculated that the explanation is the same as that for high-earning or high-status women with "exceptional career success" generally: "On the one hand, the increased risk of divorce [that] women experience may be ascribed to a husband's discomfort with his wife's fame and success. On the other hand, after a status increase, the wife may grow dissatisfied with her current marital arrangement either because she has outgrown the relationship or because she now has the confidence and opportunity to move away from a bad marriage."

- Margaret Shapiro

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