The Economic Value of Teeth

47 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2008 Last revised: 12 Apr 2012

See all articles by Sherry Glied

Sherry Glied

Dean; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Matthew Neidell

Columbia University; University of Chicago - Department of Economics and CISES; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: March 2008

Abstract

Healthy teeth are a vital and visible component of general well-being, but there is little systematic evidence to demonstrate their economic value. In this paper, we examine one element of that value, the effect of oral health on labor market outcomes, by exploiting variation in access to fluoridated water during childhood. The politics surrounding the adoption of water fluoridation by local water districts suggests exposure to fluoride during childhood is exogenous to other factors affecting earnings. We find that women who resided in communities with fluoridated water during childhood earn approximately 4% more than women who did not, but we find no effect of fluoridation for men. Furthermore, the effect is almost exclusively concentrated amongst women from families of low socioeconomic status. We find little evidence to support occupational sorting, statistical discrimination, and productivity as potential channels of these effects, suggesting consumer and employer discrimination are the likely driving factors whereby oral health affects earnings

Suggested Citation

Glied, Sherry A. and Neidell, Matthew, The Economic Value of Teeth (March 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w13879, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1106605

Sherry A. Glied (Contact Author)

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Matthew Neidell

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