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


  • 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 self- esteem, 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.

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  • Francisco Gallego & Cristian Larroulet & Andrea Repetto, 2018. "What's Behind Her Smile? Looks, Self-Esteem, and Labor Market Outcomes," Documentos de Trabajo 519, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
  • Handle: RePEc:ioe:doctra:519

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Oriana Bandiera & Robin Burgess & Narayan Das & Selim Gulesci & Imran Rasul & Munshi Sulaiman, 2017. "Labor Markets and Poverty in Village Economies," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(2), pages 811-870.
    2. Florencia Devoto & Esther Duflo & Pascaline Dupas & William Parienté & Vincent Pons, 2012. "Happiness on Tap: Piped Water Adoption in Urban Morocco," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 68-99, November.
    3. Gustavo J. Bobonis, 2009. "Is the Allocation of Resources within the Household Efficient? New Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(3), pages 453-503, June.
    4. López Bóo, Florencia & Rossi, Martín A. & Urzúa, Sergio S., 2013. "The labor market return to an attractive face: Evidence from a field experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 118(1), pages 170-172.
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    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration


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