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Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health

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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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Marina Giusta & Maria Tommaso & Steinar Strøm, 2009. "Who is watching? The market for prostitution services," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 22(2), pages 501-516, April.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Regulation; Sex work; Public health; Crime;
    All these keywords.

    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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