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Persistence and change in age-specific gender gaps: Hollywood actors from the silent era onward

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  • Fleck, Robert K.
  • Hanssen, F. Andrew

Abstract

In this paper, we examine a set of workers for whom age-based and gender-based discrimination has been widely alleged: motion picture actors. We document, measure, and consider possible explanations for age-specific gender gaps among Hollywood actors, using nearly a century’s worth of data on films and film roles. Consistent with reports in the popular press, we find a large and very persistent gender gap: Of the nearly half-million different roles played in more than 50,000 feature films between 1920 and 2011, two-thirds have gone to males, and the average male actor is consistently older (by six to ten years) than the average female actor. Yet the age-based gender differences that we observe cannot be explained by a simple model of discrimination—while there are fewer roles for middle-aged women than for middle-aged men, there are more roles for young women than for young men. The fact that these patterns have held steady through major changes in the film industry – and in society as a whole – suggests that correspondingly stable aspects of moviegoer preferences contribute to the age-specific nature of gender gaps.

Suggested Citation

  • Fleck, Robert K. & Hanssen, F. Andrew, 2016. "Persistence and change in age-specific gender gaps: Hollywood actors from the silent era onward," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 36-49.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:48:y:2016:i:c:p:36-49
    DOI: 10.1016/j.irle.2016.08.002
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Gender gap; Age discrimination; Labor market; Actors; Films; Motion pictures;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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