What's Behind Her Smile? Looks, Self-Esteem, and Labor Market Outcomes

Available from: 
November 2018
Paper author(s): 
Francisco Gallego
Cristian Larroulet
Andrea Repetto

We explore how improving dental health affects 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) significantly improved dental health of both men and women, (ii) had a significant and positive effect on women's selfesteem, and (iii) positively impacted both employment rates and earnings among women. In the medium run, the effects 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 effects on spending on appearance-related items, and improvements in the quality of relationships with partners including a reduction in verbal violence. The employment effects 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.


Research section: 
Working Papers