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The Prostitute's Allure: The Return to Beauty in Commercial Sex Work

Listed author(s):
  • Arunachalam Raj

    ()

    (University of Michigan - Ann Arbor)

  • Shah Manisha

    ()

    (University of California, Los Angeles)

We estimate the earnings premium for beauty in an occupation where returns to physical attractiveness are likely to be important: commercial sex work. Using data from sex workers in Ecuador and Mexico, we find that a one standard deviation increase in attractiveness yields 10-15 percent higher earnings. Including controls for personal characteristics (communication ability and desirability of personality) cuts the beauty premium by up to one-half. Beautiful sex workers earn higher wages, have more clients, and enjoy a larger compensating differential for disease risk.

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File URL: https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/bejeap.2012.12.issue-1/1935-1682.3203/1935-1682.3203.xml?format=INT
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Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.

Volume (Year): 12 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (December)
Pages: 1-27

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Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:12:y:2012:i:1:p:1-27:n:45
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References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Raj Arunachalam & Manisha Shah, 2008. "Prostitutes and Brides?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 516-522, May.
  2. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2008. "Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(3), pages 499-532, 06.
  3. Giam Pietro Cipriani & Angelo Zago, 2011. "Productivity or Discrimination? Beauty and the Exams," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 73(3), pages 428-447, June.
  4. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2006. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 747-782.
  5. Johnston, David W., 2010. "Physical appearance and wages: Do blondes have more fun?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 108(1), pages 10-12, July.
  6. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Meng, Xin & Zhang, Junsen, 2002. "Dress for success--does primping pay?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 361-373, July.
  7. Andreoni, James & Petrie, Ragan, 2008. "Beauty, gender and stereotypes: Evidence from laboratory experiments," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 73-93, February.
  8. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2017. "The right look: Conservative politicians look better and voters reward it," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 79-86.
  9. López Bóo, Florencia & Rossi, Martín A. & Urzúa, Sergio S., 2013. "The labor market return to an attractive face: Evidence from a field experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 118(1), pages 170-172.
  10. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(5), pages 1019-1053, October.
  11. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2010. "The looks of a winner: Beauty and electoral success," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 8-15, February.
  12. Michèle Belot & V. Bhaskar & Jeroen van de Ven, 2012. "Beauty and the Sources of Discrimination," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(3), pages 851-872.
  13. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  14. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2001. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height, Third Version," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-013, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 15 Mar 2004.
  15. Biddle, Jeff E & Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1998. "Beauty, Productivity, and Discrimination: Lawyers' Looks and Lucre," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 172-201, January.
  16. Paul J. Gertler & Manisha Shah, 2011. "Sex Work and Infection: What's Law Enforcement Got to Do with It?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(4), pages 811-840.
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