Acting Field Filled with Bias and Discrimination: Study

A new scientific study of the careers of actors has demonstrated it is a wonder that anyone would ever enter the acting field.  The study confirmed the paper published by two of our authors in a peer-reviewed scientific journal arguing that The Arts in general, including authors, is rife with bias and discrimination and primarily favors the well-connected.*


Overview of the findings from the scientific study on actors’ careers:

-The vast majority of actors and actresses, around 70 per cent, have careers that only last for one year.

One-hit wonders are the norm rather than the exception as long careers with lots of jobs are rare.

-Actors’ most productive year (defined as the year with the largest number of credited jobs) is towards the beginning of their career.

-Acting careers are clustered into ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ streaks as individuals do not tend to work at a steady rate in a business where unemployment rates hover at around 90 per cent.

-The data demonstrated there is huge evidence of gender bias in the industry, as most of the patterns observed were different for actors and actresses.

◊ Actors are more likely to find work after a cold streak while an actress’s most productive year is more likely be at the start of their career.

◊ When careers last more than one year, it is more common to find actresses with shorter career lengths than actors.

Being Well-Connected is Key to Success: Like book and music sales and popularity, in acting the more popular one already is, the more work s/he will get:  Researchers found that the total number of jobs in a career is underpinned by a rich-get-richer phenomenon. In other words, the best known actors get the most jobs…The rich-get-richer effects are well known to develop out of arbitrary and unpredictable random events that get amplified. So an actor’s success could be down to circumstance rather than their acting ability. This is known as the network effect.

Study/Methodology overview

Research conducted analyses using data presented by Internet Movie Database (IMDb), the researchers studied the careers of 1,512,472 actors and 896,029 actresses around the world from 1888, when the first film was made, up to 2016 to analyze and predict success on the silver screen.

*Go to Bookstore tab and click on Editor’s Corner. Scroll down to: The Odds of Success for Writers and Others in The Arts.


Journal Reference: Oliver E. Williams, Lucas Lacasa, Vito Latora. Quantifying and predicting success in show business. Nature Communications, June 4, 2019;

Overview / Study: DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10213-0