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New Urban Institute research released on Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities.

12 Mar 2014 2:14 PM | Adrienne Hoffman-Lewis (Administrator)
Underground Commercial Sex Economy Key Findings

"Sex sells" does little to explain the multimillion-dollar profits generated by the underground commercial sex economy. From high-end escort services to high school "sneaker pimps," the sex trade leaves no demographic unrepresented and circuits almost every major US city. What we know about the underground commercial sex economy is likely just the tip of the iceberg, but our study attempts to unveil its size and structure while documenting the experiences of offenders and law enforcement.

Our study focused on eight US cities undefined Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and Washington, DC. Across cities, the 2007 underground sex economy’s worth was estimated between $39.9 and $290 million. While almost all types of commercial sex venues, massage parlors, brothels, escort services, and street- and internet-based prostitution existed in each city, regional and demographic differences influenced their markets.

Pimps and traffickers interviewed for the study took home between $5,000 and $32,833 a week. These actors form a notoriously difficult population to reach because of the criminal nature of their work. Our study presents data from interviews with 73 individuals charged and convicted for crimes including compelling prostitution, human trafficking and engaging in a business relationship with sex workers.

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