More Academic Research on the Gender Gap in Acting Roles in Hollywood Films

orange-purpleLast month a WIAReport post reported on a study conducted at the University of Southern California that found a wide gender gap in speaking roles for actors in Hollywood films. A new study by economists at Clemson University in South Carolina finds that although there are fewer roles for older women actors in Hollywood films than for older male actors, discrimination is probably not the factor for the discrepancy. While there were fewer roles for older women than for older men, the research also found that there were more roles for younger women than for younger men.

The researchers looked at more than 50,000 films made between 1920 and 2011. They found that over the entire period, two thirds of all roles were played by men. They also found that the age of women actors was typically between six and 10 years younger than for male actors.

Robert Fleck, one of the authors of the study, states that “the fact that more roles could be played by either males or females, depending upon their ages, makes it doubtful that a simple theory of discrimination can account for the age-specific gender gaps.”

C0-author Andrew Hanssen added that “the majority of popular films have plots that involve one, or both, of two themes: romance and action. Romantic plots, not surprisingly, employ men and women in roughly equal proportions, while action plots employ more men than women. And this has long been the case. The gender mix won’t change unless either the mix of film genres changes or the gender mix within film genres changes — for example, audiences begin clamoring for more action roles for women. There is no evidence that either is happening yet.”

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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