Estimating the Underground Commercial Sex Economy

A new study has revealed the dynamics of the commercial sex trade.

NIJ-funded researchers at the Urban Institute have completed a study of the underground commercial sex economy in eight cities: Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and Washington, DC. The study is a first step toward building scientific understanding of the illicit sex market.

The team interviewed pimps, traffickers, prostituted women, child pornographers, and law enforcement to understand the dynamics central to the underground commercial sex trade. These actors form a notoriously difficult population to reach because of the criminal nature of their work.

The team estimated the sex economy to be between $39.9 and $290 million in 2007 across the eight cities but with decreases since 2003 in all but two cities. The researchers found that pimps and traffickers interviewed for the study took home between $5,000 and $32,833 a week.

The report also offers policy suggestions to combat the illicit sex market.

Read Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities by Meredith Dank, et al. here.

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Item of Interest

The language barrier between English-speaking investigators and Spanish-speaking witnesses is a growing problem. (Updated 28 February 2011)