Win an Oscar, Destined for Divorce?


Divorce attorneys in Pasadena have heard of the "Oscar Curse" for years. The fabled curse says that actresses who win the Academy Award for Best Actress are doomed to divorce. Sounds silly, right? But consider this: Kate Winslet, Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and last year's best actress, Sandra Bullock, all got divorced after their Oscar wins. As awards night approaches, a new study says the Oscar curse might actually be legitimate.

Researchers at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and Carnegie Mellon University decided to see if the curse held any truth to it. They compared divorce rates in actresses who won Best Actress awards from 1936 to 2010 to those actresses who were nominated but did not win. Winners, according to their research, are 1.68 times as likely to divorce as stars who went home empty-handed. The study also looked at nominees and winners of the Best Actor statuettes, bringing the total of nominees surveyed to 751. Best Actors, according to researchers, do not experience an increase in the risk of divorce after an Oscar win.

"Research has shown that, in the general population, gender differences have historically given roles with greater power and status to men and roles with lesser status and power to women," says Tiziana Casciaro, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Rotman School and who co-authored the study with Colleen Stuart and Sue Moon. "Studies have demonstrated that breaching this social norm within a marriage -- for example, when a wife earns more than her husband -- can strain the relationship."

The study showed that Best Actress winners have a 63 percent chance of their marriages ending sooner than the marriages of non-winners. Stuart, a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon, points out that just because an actress is professionally successful doesn't necessarily mean she's also successful in relationships.

"It appears that even the marriages of Hollywood actresses at the top of their careers are not immune to the consequences of violating social norms that affect the wider population," says Stuart.