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Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health

Author

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  • Scott Cunningham
  • Manisha Shah

Abstract

Most governments in the world, including the U.S., prohibit sex work. Given these types of laws rarely change and are fairly uniform across regions, our knowledge about the impact of decriminalizing sex work is largely conjectural. We exploit the fact that a Rhode Island District Court judge unexpectedly decriminalized indoor sex work to provide causal estimates of the impact of decriminalization on the composition of the sex market, reported rape offences, and sexually transmitted infections. While decriminalization increases the size of the indoor sex market, reported rape offences fall by 30% and female gonorrhoea incidence declines by over 40%.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Cunningham & Manisha Shah, 2018. "Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(3), pages 1683-1715.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:85:y:2018:i:3:p:1683-1715.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/restud/rdx065
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:bla:scotjp:v:65:y:2018:i:5:p:528-549 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Julio Elias & Nicola Lacetera & Mario Macis, 2016. "Efficiency-Morality Trade-Offs in Repugnant Transactions: A Choice Experiment," CESifo Working Paper Series 6085, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Seo-Young Cho, 2015. "Does Prostitution Constrain Sex Crimes? Micro-evidence from Korea," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201521, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    4. Julio J. Elías & Nicola Lacetera & Mario Macis & Paola Salardi, 2017. "Economic Development and the Regulation of Morally Contentious Activities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(5), pages 76-80, May.
    5. Alexander Muravyev & Oleksandr Talavera, 2018. "Unsafe Sex in the City: Risk Pricing in the London Area," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 65(5), pages 528-549, November.
    6. Julio J. Elias & Nicola Lacetera & Mario Macis, 2015. "Sacred Values? The Effect of Information on Attitudes toward Payments for Human Organs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 361-365, May.
    7. David Powell, 2016. "Synthetic Control Estimation Beyond Case Studies Does the Minimum Wage Reduce Employment?," Working Papers WR-1142, RAND Corporation.
    8. Daniel S. Grossman & David J.G. Slutsky, 2017. "The Effect of an Increase in Lead in the Water System on Fertility and Birth Outcomes: The Case of Flint, Michigan," Working Papers 17-25, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    9. Wilson, Nicholas, 2017. "The World’s Oldest Profession? Employment-Age Profiles from the Transactional Sex Market," GLO Discussion Paper Series 77, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    10. Catherine Hakim, 2015. "Economies of Desire: Sexuality and the Sex Industry in the 21st Century," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(3), pages 329-348, October.
    11. repec:eee:chieco:v:53:y:2019:i:c:p:271-289 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Regulation; Sex work; Public health; Crime;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J4 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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