Cost Benefit Analysis: An Academy Award Oscar

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Feb 23, 2013    •    673 Views

An Oscar could be worth 4 years.

  • Hypothesizing that higher social status can extend a life, researchers report that actors who win an Academy Award can expect to live 3.9 years longer than those who lost. Their conclusions were based on data from 72 years of awards that included 235 Oscar winners, 527 non-winning nominees and a control group of 887 performers who were never nominated. (We should note that their statistical methods have been challenged.)


An Oscar could cost $900.

  • Weighing 8 1/2 pounds (yes, heavier than it appears) and 13 1/2 inches tall, Oscars have a 24-carat gold plated exterior. Mostly though, they are made of Britannium, an alloy composed of tin (93%), antimony (5%) and copper (2%) and cost $900.


Or, more than $2 million.

  • Currently, award winners are only permitted to sell their statuettes back to the Academy for a small amount but pre-1950 recipients have no constraints. The best picture Oscar that went to Gone With the Wind in 1939 was purchased by Michael Jackson for $2,125,743.


And always, an Oscar costs the time it takes to write an acceptance speech.

In an analysis of Oscar speeches since 1971, the Guardian’s movie blogger reported the frequency of words and phrases that winners expressed. Here are some examples that I particularly liked:

  • 15 thanked their high school teacher.
  • Meryl Streep said, “Holy mackerel.”
  • 181 wives were thanked but only 37 husbands
  • 125 moms were thanked but only 81 dads
  • Only 24 said, “I would like to thank my children.”
  • 73 said, “Wow.”


Sources and Resources: The 2001 Redelmeier/Singh study (gated except for first page) and this NY Times article on Dr. Redelmeier’s work explain how he concluded that Oscar winners live longer. By contrast, saying the Redelmeier/Singh study displayed “healthy performer survivor bias,” this paper disagrees. For more about the physical composition of the statuette, this article provides the details while the resale value is described here. And the Guardian blog on acceptance speeches was fun.

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