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The Economic Value of Teeth

Sherry Glied and Matthew Neidell

Journal of Human Resources, 2010, vol. 45, issue 2

Abstract: This paper examines the effect of oral health on labor market outcomes by exploiting variation in fluoridated water exposure during childhood. The politics surrounding the adoption of water fluoridation by local governments suggests exposure to fluoride is exogenous to other factors affecting earnings. Exposure to fluoridated water increases women’s earnings by approximately 4 percent, but has no detectable effect for men. Furthermore, the effect is largely concentrated amongst women from families of low socioeconomic status. We find little evidence to support occupational sorting, statistical discrimination, and productivity as potential channels, with some evidence supporting consumer and possibly employer discrimination.

Date: 2010
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