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Risk-Coping through Sexual Networks: Evidence from Client Transfers in Kenya


  • Jonathan Robinson
  • Ethan Yeh


Why do women engage in transactional sex? While much of the explanation is that sex-for-money pays more than other jobs, we use a unique panel data set constructed from 192 self-reported diaries of sex workers in Western Kenya to show that women who supply transactional sex develop relationships with regular clients, and that these clients send transfers in response to negative income shocks. Regular clients are the primary source of interperson insurance that women receive, and women report in a separate survey that client transfers are an important reason that they participate in the market.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Robinson & Ethan Yeh, 2012. "Risk-Coping through Sexual Networks: Evidence from Client Transfers in Kenya," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(1), pages 107-145.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:46:y:2012:i:1:p:107-145

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Raj Arunachalam & Manisha Shah, 2008. "Prostitutes and Brides?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 516-522, May.
    2. Townsend, Robert M, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in Village India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 539-591, May.
    3. Jonathan Robinson & Ethan Yeh, 2011. "Transactional Sex as a Response to Risk in Western Kenya," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 35-64, January.
    4. Paul Gertler & Manisha Shah & Stefano M. Bertozzi, 2005. "Risky Business: The Market for Unprotected Commercial Sex," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(3), pages 518-550, June.
    5. Anne Case & Alicia Menendez, 2011. "Requiescat in Pace? The Consequences of High-Priced Funerals in South Africa," NBER Chapters,in: Explorations in the Economics of Aging, pages 351-373 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Pascaline Dupas & Jonathan Robinson, 2013. "Savings Constraints and Microenterprise Development: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Kenya," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 163-192, January.
    7. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Stark, Oded, 1989. "Consumption Smoothing, Migration, and Marriage: Evidence from Rural India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 905-926, August.
    8. Rao, Vijayendra & Gupta, Indrani & Lokshin, Michael & Jana, Smarajit, 2003. "Sex workers and the cost of safe sex: the compensating differential for condom use among Calcutta prostitutes," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 585-603, August.
    9. Jonathan Morduch, 1995. "Income Smoothing and Consumption Smoothing," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 103-114, Summer.
    10. Lena Edlund & Evelyn Korn, 2002. "A Theory of Prostitution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 181-214, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. de Walque, Damien & Dow, William H. & Gong, Erick, 2014. "Coping with risk : the effects of shocks on reproductive health and transactional sex in rural Tanzania," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6751, The World Bank.
    2. Levine, David & Polimeni, Rachel & Ramage, Ian, 2016. "Insuring health or insuring wealth? An experimental evaluation of health insurance in rural Cambodia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 1-15.
    3. Brodeur, Abel & Lekfuangfu, Warn N. & Zylberberg, Yanos, 2017. "War, migration and the origins of the Thai sex industry," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86581, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. repec:kap:reveho:v:15:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11150-017-9360-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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).
    6. Samuel Lee & Petra Persson, 2012. "Human Trafficking and Regulating Prostitution," Working Papers 12-07, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    7. TENIKUE Michel & TEQUAME Miron, 2018. "Economic and Health Impacts of the 2011 Post-Electoral Crisis in Côte d?Ivoire: Evidence from Microdata," LISER Working Paper Series 2018-03, LISER.
    8. Burke, Marshall & Gong, Erick & Jones, Kelly, 2011. "Income shocks and HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa:," IFPRI discussion papers 1146, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Dupas, Pascaline & Robinson, Jonathan, 2012. "The (hidden) costs of political instability: Evidence from Kenya's 2007 election crisis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 314-329.
    10. Pascaline Dupas & Edward Miguel, 2016. "Impacts and Determinants of Health Levels in Low-Income Countries," NBER Working Papers 22235, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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