What’s Behind Her Smile? Looks, Self-Esteem, and Labor Market Outcomes
Abstract: We explore how improving dental health a ects economic, social, and psychological outcomes. Using a randomized intervention whereby an impoverished group in Chile received free dental care, including access to prostheses, we find that the treatment in the short-run: (i) signi cantly improved dental health of both men and women, (ii) had a signi cant and positive effect on women’s self-esteem, and (iii) positively impacted both employment rates and earnings among women.
In the medium run, the e ects on dental health and self-esteem persist but the treatment effects on labor market outcomes become statistically non significant, although still economically relevant among women with low levels of self esteem and among women missing at least one front tooth at baseline. We also find treatment e ects on spending on appearance-related items, and improvements in the quality of relationships with partners including a reduction in verbal violence. The
employment e ects come mostly from the informal sector. Using several pieces of evidence, we document that the employment effects are consistent with a combination of increases in productivity and labor supply jointly with a possibly much smaller response of labor demand in the formal sector.