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

Organization Science, 2015, 26: 1-21

21 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2015

See all articles by Michael Jensen

Michael Jensen

University of Michigan

Heeyon Kim

National University of Singapore

Date Written: February 8, 2015


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 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.

Keywords: status, relative deprivation, happiness, Oscars, movies, tournaments

Suggested Citation

Jensen, Michael and Kim, Heeyon, The Real Oscar Curse: The Negative Consequences of Positive Status Shifts (February 8, 2015). Organization Science, 2015, 26: 1-21. Available at SSRN:

Michael Jensen (Contact Author)

University of Michigan ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Heeyon Kim

National University of Singapore ( email )

15 Kent Ridge Drive
Singapore, 119245

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics