Beautiful Sex Workers Make More Money

17379564That’s what research from University of Michigan Economics Professor Raj Arunachalam has found.

He hired sex workers in Ecuador and Mexico to interview other sex workers employed in brothels and as street prostitutes. As sex workers have a keen sense as to what clients consider “beautiful,” he relied on them to scale their looks fairly.

As much of sex work relies on friendly interactions with clients, survey staff were also instructed to assess communication skills. Sex workers were asked to report the number of hours worked in the previous week, the number of clients and the time spent with each.

Sex workers in Ecuador reported making approximately $5 per hour, where Mexican prostitutes made nearly $12 an hour. Most prostitutes worked a 40 hour week. A Mexican prostitute can expect to make about 5 times the income of an average household there. The payoff in Ecuador is somewhat less but still higher than the average.

About three quarters of each had children and between 20 and 50% of them were married. Around 1 in 10 Ecuadorian sex worker tested positive for an STI.

Arunachalam found that beautiful sex workers in brothels tended to spend more time working, more time with clients and made more money per transaction. Attractive sex workers earned approximately 15% more than average and unattractive prostitutes.

He also found that while beautiful women tended to be more likely to work in brothels, where hours are fixed, than as street prostitutes. The pay off for beauty on the street tended to be higher on the street than in brothels, however.

Beauty payoffs have been seen in other employment contexts. It has been associated with a decreased risk of being involved with crime, the likelihood of happiness, securing a job, success in politics, and in generating positive reviews from University students.

The paper “The Prostitute’s Allure: The Return to Beauty in Commercial Sex Work” is available here.

OK, back to work.

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About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

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