The Real Oscar Curse: The Negative Consequences of Positive Status Shifts

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We examine the negative consequences of upward mobility following a sudden positive status shift. Building on sociological and social psychological research on status and happiness, we argue that status disruption and status deprivation provide different explanations of why sudden positive status shifts can have negative consequences for upwardly mobile social actors. We use the “Oscar curse,” the colorful belief that misfortune paradoxically befalls Academy Award winners, as our empirical context for studying the negative consequences of positive status shifts. We find no evidence of a professional Oscar curse; male and female Oscar winners and Oscar nominees appear in more films following their Oscar experiences than do other actors. We find most evidence of a male personal Oscar curse: survival analysis shows that the divorce rates of male Oscar winners and nominees increase following the Oscars but not the divorce rates of female Oscar winner and nominees. Our survival analysis suggests also that status disruption accounts for the negative male Oscar winner effect, whereas status deprivation accounts for the negative male Oscar nominee effect. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for status theory and how our study draws attention to the negative aspects of the proliferation of tournament structures in organizations and other aspects of social life.
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2015-01-01
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status; happiness; deprivation; disruption; Oscars; movies
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Required Publisher Statement: © INFORMS. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Final version published as: Jensen, M. & Kim, H. (2015). The real Oscar curse: The negative consequences of positive status shifts. Organization Science, 26(1), 1-21. doi: 10.1287/orsc.2014.0951
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