A com­pre­hen­sive study com­mis­sioned by the Jus­tice Depart­ment looks at the eco­nomics of selling sex.

Though pros­ti­tu­tion has the poten­tial to be lucra­tive, most sex workers rarely reap the ben­e­fits of their rev­enue, according to a new report on the eco­nomics of sex work.

The study com­mis­sioned by the Jus­tice Depart­ment looked at the under­ground com­mer­cial sex economy in eight major U.S. cities—Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kasas City, Miami, Seattle, San Diego and Wash­ington, D.C. Researchers con­ducted 250 inter­views with pimps, traf­fickers, sex workers and child pornographers—many of whom were serving time—about their busi­ness deal­ings in those areas. They found that the illicit sex economy had an esti­mated worth of $39.9 to $290 mil­lion in 2007 in each city. Atlanta was the most prof­itable city, and Denver was the least.

Pimps and traf­fickers raked in between $5,000 and $32,833 per week employing an average of five sex workers at a time (with a high rate of turnover). They charged johns an average of $150 per hour—a price point that was con­sis­tent across the country—though prices could vary depending on the age, race and drug use of the sex worker. Half of the pimps inter­viewed adver­tised online, and one fourth of those inter­viewed used sites like Backpage.

But pimps and pros­ti­tutes’ expenses are high, and they saved little from their earn­ings. Pimps can spend thou­sands on hotel rooms and shop­ping sprees for their employees, according to the report. “Pros­ti­tu­tion and pimping — in many cases that’s not par­tic­u­larly prof­itable,” Amy Far­rell, a researcher not involved in the study at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity told the New York Times. “Some parts are more mar­ketable than others.”

Read the article at Time →