It's Hard Out Here Without a Pimp

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As Radley Balko mentioned yesterday, Sudhir Venkatesh and Steven Levitt have a fascinating new paper (PDF) on the economics of prostitution. Radley noted how unhelpful the police are, but I'm more surprised by how helpful the pimps are. Prostitutes who used pimps were found to make more per hour even after they'd paid 25 percent of their earnings for the pimping. They were arrested less often and were less vulnerable to police and gang members demanding free service. Thus:

It appears that the pimps choose to pay efficiency wages. Consistent with this hypothesis, many of the women who do not work with pimps are eager to work with pimps, and indeed we observe a few switches in that direction over the course of the sample.

Pimps pay better than the market wage and keep you safe and keep the police from demanding freebies. Who wouldn't want a pimp? Except:

Women who work with pimps are much less likely to be injured by customers; one of the services provided by pimps is protection. Pimps, however, hurt their prostitutes enough to roughly equalize the number of injuries.

So your options as a Chicago hooker are (1) work as a free agent, give sex away to the police, and get abused by clients or (2) hire a pimp and let him beat you occasionally. In neither case can women call on police for assistance; facilitating police protection would entail decriminalization. Which would be, you know, demeaning to women.

My review of Venkatesh's Off the Books is here.

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38 responses to “It's Hard Out Here Without a Pimp

  1. Just an additional thought on the pimp thing– it may be that the lesser talent can’t get the protection of a pimp, it may only be worth it for better ones. I think that may have a little more to do with the per-hour discrepancy than the pimp himself. Girls that are worth pimping are those that can bring in bigger charges.

    Again, it’s all pretty disgusting that these women are relegated to some wild west underworld for such a harmless ‘crime’.

  2. Prostitutes who used pimps were found to make more per hour even after they’d paid 25 percent of their earnings for the pimping.

    All of the pimps in the 1999 documentary American Pimp made it clear that the women got 0% of the money. Now they get 75%? Times they are a-changing.

  3. If you are aware of what the life of an American prostitute is like and still support criminalization of this simple fee for service exchange, I have to conclude that despite any professed moral reasons for your stance, you are an evil, that’s right, EVIL, person. Now get your self-righteous butt to the local temple, donate to the pharisees and congratulate yourselves for standing up to immorality. Just get out of my sight!

    Other than that, I have no opinion on the subject.

  4. Why is it that after reading this I imagine Radley in full Libertarian Level 14 Dwarven Mage D&D get-up while channeling a character in Idiocracy: “You see, a pimp’s love isn’t like the love of a square”.

  5. Bill S.:

    Because you are very strange.

  6. I’m calling bullshit. Maybe the hos in the Bunny Ranch are making bank but not street hookers.

    I don’t feel so bad that Reason hates Ron Paul anymore. They apparently believe anything they read.

  7. “Who *wouldn’t* want a pimp?”

    Quotes like this will probably serve to sabotage the campaign of any *Reason* editor who runs for President in ten or twenty years’ time.

    Ron Paul in 08!

  8. How much a society values human life has throughout history been a good way to measure its maturity.

    Judging by this and the Drug War, it appears we are still somewhere in the teenage years.

  9. Kerry, Kerry, come on… if LSD can cause paranoia and delusions in people who have not used it, prostitution can cause women who aren’t prostitutes to be demeaned. It all makes complete sense don’t you see?

  10. So your options as a Chicago hooker are (1) work as a free agent, give sex away to the police, and get abused by clients or (2) hire a pimp and let him beat you occasionally

    Or maybe you should find a new line of work?

  11. Prostitutes who used pimps were found to make more per hour even after they’d paid 25 percent of their earnings for the pimping. They were arrested less often and were less vulnerable to police and gang members demanding free service.

    For some strange reason, this (to me) makes pimps sound like tax attorneys.

    [no offense, TWC]

  12. Again, it’s all pretty disgusting … for such a harmless ‘crime’.

    Harmless hah?

    Women who work with pimps are much less likely to be injured by customers; one of the services provided by pimps is protection. Pimps, however, hurt their prostitutes enough to roughly equalize the number of injuries.

    Prostitution is degrading to all women, anything that degrades any woman degrades ALL women. It is disgusting, dirty, immoral and just plain wrong. That is why if anything we need to step up efforts to elimiate it from society with increased penalties, enforcement, stings and lifelong offender registration for the men caught with prostitutes.

    The AIDs epidemic is another reason to forbid prostitution.

    If you are serious about freedom you would not want all women to be enslaved and exploited by pimps and johns.

  13. I once aspired to be a pimp but I found that, like dealing coke, I got into my own stash. Not a good way to run a business.

  14. I am truly torn. Is Sally a brain-dead troll, or is she doing a fabulous job of note-perfect satire?

  15. Sally, are you real or a caricature?

    How does prostitution degrade me? As a female, I am subject to inlcusion in that gender demographic from time to time for the purposes of reporting on studies, etc., but as an individual I do feel neither uplifted nor degraded based on the activities of others with whom I share a gender.

    Let us not forget that, though they may be lesser in number, male prostitutes also exist. Does the existence of male prostitution degrade all men as well?

  16. A. That is why if anything we need to step up efforts to eliminate it from society with increased penalties, enforcement, stings and lifelong offender registration for the men caught with prostitutes.

    B. If you are serious about freedom you would not want all women to be enslaved and exploited by pimps and johns.

    Except that throughout history, wherever government has tried to legislate morality, A has led directly to B.

  17. How does prostitution degrade me?

    Because you are female, any degradation to any woman degrades ALL womyn, and all me are guilty. It is just the worst case of the hierarchical patriarchies oppression of womyn. I learned this in womyn’s studies.

    Except that throughout history, wherever government has tried to legislate morality, A has led directly to B.

    Sometimes it is nececary to continue fighting what is write, even if not successful, just to send a message that society doesn’t tolerate imorrality.

  18. … and all me are guilty …

    I meant all MEN are collectively guilty.

  19. You may also have meant “fighting for what is right” (although if you meant “fighting what is right”, you’d be more accurate).

  20. Yeah, I mean, what’s a few busted up prostitutes when my dignity is on the line?

  21. Remember, everybody: foolish comments at Hit & Run degrade ALL Hit & Run commenters.

  22. Madbiker: “Sally, are you real or a caricature?”

    Sally: “Because you are female, any degradation to any woman degrades ALL womyn, and all me are guilty. It is just the worst case of the hierarchical patriarchies oppression of womyn. I learned this in womyn’s studies.”

    Does that answer your question?

  23. I think Sally’s email address is another clue to the whole “Is it real, or is it Memorex?” question.

  24. nevermind, the “I learned this in womyn’s studies” line tells me all I need to know about Sally

  25. “Degradation is degrading.” How is that so hard to figure out?

    Now, Sally, are you going to answer her question or not?

    And hey, if women are all guilty, and men are all guilty, then it’s a level playing field again. Woohoo!

    As it’s been said, if prostitution were legal, women wouldn’t have to go to pimps for protection–they’d be protected by law and could go to trustworthy police for retribution of damages.

    To answer Madbiker’s question, the reason that it’s degrading comes down to this: “God said so.” From there it’s simply a matter of belief.

  26. “Women who work with pimps are much less likely to be injured by customers; one of the services provided by pimps is protection. Pimps, however, hurt their prostitutes enough to roughly equalize the number of injuries.”

    The solution is a national licensing program for pimps, with special care given to sexual ethics. And karate classes for prostitutes. And a special certificate to confirm that the pimps and prostitutes have met the national standards for whoremongering, which will qualify the pimps to become lobbyists.

  27. I give Sally’s trolling a 8.5 out of 10. Really good work, although the use of “womyn” was a bit over the top.

  28. Is there a difference between prostitution and Elimi-date or Who wants to Marry a Bachelor?

    It always looked like some form of competitive, televised prostitution to me but perhaps I’m just a prude.

    If those shows are demeaning to womyn should they be illegal? What if they’re just stupid?

  29. I’d give Sally a 7. I think she trying too hard to sound like a feminazi.

  30. Some of you still support that racist Ron Paul?

  31. Women who are married or otherwise in exclusive relationships bargain with sexual favors for material things or changes in their men’s behavior. For men to be able to purchase sex, cash on the barrel head, from other women degrades the married/relationship whores by diminishing the value of their favor-trading currency.

  32. It doesn’t make economic sense that a prostitute would stay with a pimp who caused physical injury, and it doesn’t make economic sense that a pimp would damage ‘the merchandise.’

    The ugly truth is that competitive businesses treat their merchandise better on average than religions treat their followers, or parents their children, or — especially — government their citizens.

  33. Umm, Branden, you’re joking right? If Chevrolet could beat you to death for not buying American they wouldn’t be losing market share. And if they have to beat one or two car salesmen bloody a week to prove to all the others that they would well then that’s the way it’s gotta be.

  34. Braden is right on the money. Chevy, Honda or whoever will gladly sell you a new car and finance it for six years in the full knowledge that it will be junk in three. For the most part, citizens and consumers are prey. Prostitues are used and abused? Well welcome to the club.

  35. [quote]Well welcome to the club[/quote]

    We shouldn’t tolerate it.

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