Regulating Prostitution: Theory and Evidence from Italy
We build an equilibrium model of prostitution where clients and sex workers choose to demand and supply sex under three legal regimes: prohibition, regulation and laissez-faire. The key feature is the endogenous evolution of the risk as a consequence of policy changes. We calibrate the model to empirical evidence from Italy and then compare the effect of different policies on the equilibrium quantity of prostitution and on the harm associated with it. A prohibition regime that makes it illegal to buy sex but not to sell it is more effective than the opposite regime in reducing quantity but less effective in reducing harm. Taxes are one inducement to go illegal and prevent some of the less risky individuals from joining the market, leaving it smaller but riskier. A licensing system that prevents some infected individuals from joining the legal market reduces the risk and is therefore associated with a sharp increase in quantity. While prohibition is preferable to minimize quantity, regulation is best to minimize harm.
|Date of creation:||20 Feb 2012|
|Date of revision:||12 Nov 2014|
|Publication status:||Published in Journal of Public Economics, 2015, vol. 121, pp. 14-31|
|Note:||A previous version of the paper has been circulated under the title ”Regulating Prostitution: Theory and Evidence from Italy”.|
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