Plastic Surgery: Investment in Human Capital or Consumption?

Soohyung Lee and Keunkwan Ryu, Journal of Human Capital 6(3), 224-250, September .


Beauty has been shown to be valuable in many markets and supposedly can be improved through plastic surgery. This raises the question of how effective plastic surgery is in improving a person's beauty and economic outcomes. We find empirical evidence that while people improve their facial beauty through plastic surgery, the associated monetary benefits from beauty premiums in labor and marriage markets are not high enough for most men and women to recover the surgery costs. This finding suggests that plastic surgery may be justified in terms of consumption rather than as investment in human capital.