How Pimps Spend Their Money: The Economics of Prostitution

Thanks to a new study by the Urban Institute, we now have more information about the economics of prostitution in the U.S. than ever before. Focusing on eight major cities — Miami, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Seattle, and Atlanta — the study breaks down the nuts and bolts of how the underground sex industry works, from methods of recruitment to business practices and operational tools. Of particular note is this graph of what pimps generally spend their money on in terms of business expenses (it shows the number of pimps participating in the survey who reported spending on each category, rather than the total amount spent, so just keep that in mind as you peruse it):

Some of the figures aren’t surprising — of course cars and transportation are going to rank highly, as are clothing, accessories, and other appearance-based expenses for women. What is surprising — and more than a little troubling — is that a paltry 14 percent of pimps supply their employees with condoms. Yeah, it may cut costs a little — but good gravy, is that a terrible thing to sacrifice or what? Especially from a business standpoint! You’d think that ensuring your employees don’t get either pregnant or STIs would be in the best interest of your business, but apparently that’s not the case. I can’t help that think that in a well-run brothel or what have you, contraception should rank a little more highly.

To be honest, this is one of the most convincing arguments for why the legalization of prostitution is a good idea. We know from experience that making something illegal doesn’t necessarily cut down on its occurrence; more often than not, will actually increase the illicit behavior (Prohibition, anyone?). Legalizing prostitution would bring regulation to an industry where there currently isn’t any, which would hopefully result in things like requirements on the part of employers to provide their employees with condoms.

There’s plenty more eye-opening data in the report itself; check out the full study here.