Hollywood's "Red Scare" Spread Stigma by Association

Written

Hollywood's "Red Scare" Spread Stigma by Association

Researchers explore the role of 1950s-era social networks in the Hollywood "Red Scare."

In the early 1950s, 300 actors, writers and others suspected of being communists were blacklisted in Hollywood and excluded from the workforce. A recent study, coauthored by Professor Hayagreeva Rao of Stanford GSB, analyzes how social networks of the day resulted in hundreds of individuals whose names were not on the list being denied jobs.

Some 60 years later, lessons can still be drawn about how stigma may spread through relationships. For instance, proof of drug use by athletes with one team in a specific sport may result in advertisers pulling their support for the entire sport or from related sports. Companies accused of operating overseas sweatshops may see the taint spread to partners or suppliers despite upstanding labor practices.

During the Red Scare, artists not on the list drawn up by the House Committee on Un-American Activities saw their chances of finding employment drop by 13% if they previously had worked with someone named on the blacklist, even if they had worked with that person before the list existed.

For actors, the effect of working with a subsequently tainted writer was even greater than the effect of working with actors and other Hollywood professionals. Actors faced a 20% drop in employment if they had worked with writers who were later blacklisted.

<

p>Elizabeth Pontikes, of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Giacomo Negro of Emory University, and Rao coauthored the study, which is published in the June issue of the American Sociological Review.

A higher profile did not necessarily offer shelter. The researchers said artists who appeared in a top 10 box-office film were 16% less likely to find a job after a co-worker was blacklisted, compared to a smaller 10% drop for similar artists in less successful films. Oscar winners, however, were partly shielded. The odds of an Oscar-winning artist finding a job after a co-worker was blacklisted were reduced by 9%.

For media inquiries, visit the Newsroom.
Explore More

Insights

Amir Goldberg. Credit: Gabriela Hasbun
November 20, 2018
Video

Why Leaders Shouldn’t Ignore Company Culture

Should you hire the team player or the renegade?

Insights

Huggy Rao. Credit: Nancy Rothstein
November 12, 2018
Video

What Do Employees Really Want?

Want to scale your company? Then take good care of your best employees.

Insights

A manager, standing among his employees, points at one of them during a meeting. Credit: iStock/Thomas_EyeDesign
November 7, 2018
Written

When People Would Rather Work with Competent Jerks Than Likable Fools

When money is on the line, a new study finds, people give less weight to social warmth.