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Racial Bias in Expert Quality Assessment: A Study of Newspaper Movie Reviews

Author

Listed:
  • Lona Fowdur

    (Economists, Inc.)

  • Vrinda Kadiyali

    (Cornell University)

  • Jeffrey T. Prince

    (Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, Indiana University Kelley School of Business)

Abstract

Newspaper critics' movie reviews are often used by potential movie viewers as signals of expert quality assessment. In this paper, we assess if there is any racial bias in these critics' reviews, and if so, what impact these biases have on viewer demand. To do this, we develop a dataset that tracks ratings from 68 popular movie critics for 566 movies released in the U.S. between 2003 and 2007. The data also include measures of movie production costs, marketing expenditures, type of movie (i.e. genre, MPAA rating, etc.), actor and director quality measures, audience tastes and critics' gender, experience and race. Despite inclusion of all these controls for movie quality and other drivers of critic ratings, we find that ratings for movies with a black lead actor and all white supporting cast are approximately 6% lower than for other racial compositions. These results appear consistent with implicit discrimination. Using estimates of the impact of critics' ratings on movie revenues, we find that lower critic ratings for black lead-white support movies translate into lost revenues of up to 4% or about $2.57 million on average. In sum, prejudice concerning race roles (e.g., the race of the leader versus supporters/followers) can have a direct impact on critic quality assessment, and thereby alter market outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Lona Fowdur & Vrinda Kadiyali & Jeffrey T. Prince, 2009. "Racial Bias in Expert Quality Assessment: A Study of Newspaper Movie Reviews," Working Papers 2010-13, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:iuk:wpaper:2010-13
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    racial bias; quality assessment; expert ratings; movies;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination

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