Race to the Charts: Racial and Gender Inequality in Popular Culture

Abstract

The purpose of this exploratory study is twofold: first, to determine whether racial and gender composition of top rated musicians and bands changes over time; and second, to ascertain whether there is a relationship between equality in music, film and television, and more general measures of equality in society. Using general linear modeling, this study reveals that in the racial and gender composition of the Billboard Top 10 musicians and bands from 1960 to 2009, the representation of blacks grows over time while the presence of females declines. Similarly, the number blacks nominated for Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe awards increases over time, while the number of women starring in the 10 highest grossing films for each year is neither increasing nor decreasing at a significant rate. By contrast, other measures demonstrate that gender equality in the larger society is increasing at a faster rate than equality for blacks. Importantly, social indicators of equality are correlated and tend to increase over time. These findings may indicate that differences in the opportunity structure have allowed women (particularly white women) to mobilize social capital and utilize their male spouses and family members to obtain traditional positions of power and advance socioeconomically. On the other hand, black Americans are more likely to pursue and be accepted into the entertainment industry as a channel for achieving socioeconomic advancement.