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The world's oldest profession in the Windy City.
January 12, 2008 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Steven Leavitt and Sudhir Venkatesh, of Freakonomics fame, investigate prostitution. According to the working paper [pdf], prostitutes in Chicago are more likely to sleep with the police than get arrested by them.
posted by Sticherbeast (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some sickeningly depressing facts include: posted by Sticherbeast at 1:01 PM on January 12, 2008


Pss, it's "Levitt"

That aside, it's too bad I had to miss the ASSA conference because it would have been great to see them present this paper. Can't wait to see the finished product.
posted by champthom at 1:01 PM on January 12, 2008


The invisible hand-job of the market works its magic.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:19 PM on January 12, 2008 [9 favorites]


"What they need is an union" (The Wire, s2e03, "Hot Shots")
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:21 PM on January 12, 2008


$340 for thirteen hours of work ain't too shabby.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 1:23 PM on January 12, 2008


Prostitutes work, on average, thirteen hours a week

How do they define 'work'. Does this include time spent standing on the street, or is it solely, ermmmm, 'active' work?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:23 PM on January 12, 2008


How do they define 'work'. Does this include time spent standing on the street, or is it solely, ermmmm, 'active' work?

Good question. I would definitely assume that it means 13 hours of engaging in sexual activity, and that there is more time spent waiting. Also take note of the fact that many of the prostitutes hold additional jobs (frequently legitimate jobs), so it's not like they spend one day per week being a prostitute and then they just sit around.

Also, I am a boob for spelling Steven Levitt's name wrong.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:26 PM on January 12, 2008


$340 for thirteen hours of work ain't too shabby.

When you use $100 worth of heroin and cocaine a day it is.
posted by The Straightener at 1:26 PM on January 12, 2008


I wondered the same thing as durtynumbangelboy; if that's $340 for 13 hours of sexy-sexy time with clients, it only seems high because it's heaving out a lot of un-billable overhead.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:28 PM on January 12, 2008


$340 for thirteen hours of work ain't too shabby.

For a hazardous job (80% unprotected sex!) with no benefits, a 25% tax rate (minimum, more if the IRS gets involved)?

(Perhaps my sarcasm meter is broken.)
posted by speug at 1:31 PM on January 12, 2008


When you use $100 worth of heroin and cocaine a day it is.

I disagree. $27/hour is a fine wage, regardless of individual wage earners' refusal to live within their means.

if that's $340 for 13 hours of sexy-sexy time with clients, it only seems high because it's heaving out a lot of un-billable overhead.

I would be surprised if an economist ignored the opportunity cost of time spent procuring clients. This is clearly time spent working.

For a hazardous job (80% unprotected sex!) with no benefits, a 25% tax rate (minimum, more if the IRS gets involved)?

Most unskilled jobs pay far less, also have negligible benefits, and are subject to government taxation. Yes, it's dangerous, but that's why it pays so much more.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 1:35 PM on January 12, 2008


"What they need is an union"

Or semi-regulated brothels.

I haven't read the links, obviously, but there's a near certainty that there are quality-of-life and real-earnings differences between sex-trade workers working on the streets or in brothels illegally (ie., some scumbag is holding their passport, or whatever), working in "massage parlours," and as independent escorts.

Just another case of morality laws (anti-soliciting, keeping a "bawdy house") causing human suffering just like the laws against (some) drugs.
posted by porpoise at 1:37 PM on January 12, 2008


I thought it was interesting that they title it a study of prostitution but it only studied street sex workers or those in brothels. Escorts, who tend to be independent business-women with a higher per hour wage and safer working conditions were unfortunately excluded. And women working in fetish niche markets earn even more.
posted by saucysault at 1:42 PM on January 12, 2008


I thought it was interesting that they title it a study of prostitution but it only studied street sex workers or those in brothels.

Actually, the title is, "An Empirical Analysis of Street-Level Prostitution."
posted by The Straightener at 1:52 PM on January 12, 2008


$27/hour is a fine wage...Most unskilled jobs pay far less, also have negligible benefits, and are subject to government taxation. Yes, it's dangerous, but that's why it pays so much more.

The economists disagree with your conclusion, stating that "according to our estimates, a woman working as a prostitute would expect an annual average of a dozen incidents of violence and 300 instances of unprotected sex," which is why they probably concluded that, "street prostitutes earn roughly $25-$30 per hour, roughly four times
their hourly wage in other activities, but this higher wage represents relatively meager
compensation for the significant risk they bear."
posted by The Straightener at 1:58 PM on January 12, 2008


Street prostitution yields an average wage of $27 an hour, hardly worth it considering the extraordinary occupational hazards.

That's a major presumption. Compared with the employment alternatives (and the hazards of *leaving* the occupation), it's a much higher rate than I expected. I don't think low-level drug dealers make nearly as much, for much more time spent working.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:04 PM on January 12, 2008


....and I'd be willing to guess that most people, when it came down to it, would rather sell drugs than fuck strangers for cash.

The market works, I guess.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:40 PM on January 12, 2008


In the body of the PDF, they say On average the
prostitutes work roughly thirteen hours per week, performing roughly 10 sex acts total.
That suggests that either the prostitutes are pretty quick about about their business -- they turn tricks faster than Denny's turns tables -- or else the 13 hours a week does not include all their, ahem, marketing activities.
posted by Robert Angelo at 4:06 PM on January 12, 2008


That suggests that either the prostitutes are pretty quick about about their business -- they turn tricks faster than Denny's turns tables -- or else the 13 hours a week does not include all their, ahem, marketing activities.

Really? I was going to estimate 20 minutes per sex act, which is a bit more than three hours of sex/week.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 4:12 PM on January 12, 2008


Does the paper compare the return of hookers with strippers?
posted by sien at 4:35 PM on January 12, 2008


The paper says "A prostitute is more likely to have sex with a police officer than to get officially arrested by one." Why the switch to "sleep with" in the FPP? Are we protecting any ladies who may be present here?

Anyway, what's interesting to me:

1. Arrests are zoning actions -- the cops don't want all those whores in the jail, they want them (and the freebies) on the street, but sometimes they have to change the street to, I suppose, make special interest groups happy.

2. Pimps are union bosses -- if you have a pimp, he makes sure you get higher pay, work fewer hours, and are less productive, but the pimp adds overhead.
posted by pracowity at 5:39 PM on January 12, 2008


The paper says they work 3-4 days a week depending on location,with most working 3. If they work from 12-4 13 hours a week isn't an unreasonable number.
posted by Rubbstone at 5:41 PM on January 12, 2008


Is this article insinuating that many Chicago cops are crooked? Well, I never...
posted by chillmost at 5:49 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was wondering when we were gonna get to the subject of the cops.

How totally predictable.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:39 PM on January 12, 2008


I've lately thought to become a gigalo. I think I could demand a high price from the wealthy MILF class of abandoned wives. Giggy's Pool Services. Oh, yeah.

There's just this damn psychological hurdle in my way. Not sure I could feel real good about my job. Rather whore out my brains than my body, sigh. Wish it paid as well...
posted by five fresh fish at 6:55 PM on January 12, 2008


they turn tricks faster than Denny's turns tables

These are acts of street prostitution. There's no foreplay or afterglow. I am certain they turn tricks in less time than it takes to eat a meal at Denny's. If you'll recall Taxi Driver (a work of fiction, I know), she gives him the length of time it takes for a cigarette to burn down to the filter.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:18 PM on January 12, 2008


Street prostitution yields an average wage of $27 an hour, hardly worth it considering the extraordinary occupational hazards.

But what about call-girls, brothel girls, and Craigslisters? My impression is that the archetypal "street walker" occupies the lowest rung of the sex worker ladder.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:12 PM on January 12, 2008


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