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Racial bias in expert quality assessment: A study of newspaper movie reviews

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  • Fowdur, Lona
  • Kadiyali, Vrinda
  • Prince, Jeffrey

Abstract

Newspaper critics’ movie reviews are often used by potential movie viewers as signals of expert quality assessment. We investigate the existence and revenue impact of racial bias in these reviews. Using an expansive, novel dataset spanning 2003–2007, we find ratings for movies with a black lead actor and all white supporting cast are approximately 6 percent lower than for other racial compositions. These findings appear consistent with implicit discrimination, and result in an average revenue loss of up to 4 percent, or $2.57 million, per movie. Robustness checks show it is unlikely these results are driven by unobserved heterogeneity or random correlations.

Suggested Citation

  • Fowdur, Lona & Kadiyali, Vrinda & Prince, Jeffrey, 2012. "Racial bias in expert quality assessment: A study of newspaper movie reviews," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 292-307.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:84:y:2012:i:1:p:292-307 DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2012.03.013
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    Keywords

    Movies; Expert ratings; Quality assessment; Racial bias; Implicit discrimination;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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