Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date


Working Paper Number

WP #14017, September 2014


We investigate major conjectures regarding the prevalence of cosmetic surgical procedures and their determinants, using a quantitative multidisciplinary approach and a recent international dataset from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. Cosmetic surgery predominantly concerns women. The highest frequencies found in Greece, Italy, Korea, and Brazil fall short of epidemic proportions at less than 0.6% of their population. However, consistent with idealized stereotypes reported in the media and the social science literature, a few procedures dominate the composition of surgical interventions and focus on thinning bodies and reshaping breasts. Culture and geography count. We identify Latin and Neo-Confucian cultural effects associated with higher frequencies of surgical procedures. Beyond the Latin effect, a large positive geographical effect persists in Latin-American countries. Economic globalization is positively associated with the higher frequencies of procedures. Gender roles matter. Women reduce their consumption of procedures as they increasingly participate in the labor force and when they are more equally represented politically. Lower fertility increases the consumption. Finally, consumption increases with increasing income and greater availability of surgical services.

JEL Classification

F60, J16, Z10, Z13

File Format



29 pages

File Function

Revised September 29, 2014.

Included in

Economics Commons