Researchers have concluded in a yet-to-be published study of the economics of prostitution in Chicago that the women claim they were forced to service police officers, worked more on holidays and varied pricing based on race.
University of Chicago professor and “Freakonomics” author Steven D. Levitt and sociology professor Sudhir Venkatesh of Columbia University are the authors of the two-year study of street-level prostitution in Chicago’s Roseland, Washington Park and Pullman neighborhoods.
Prostitutes taking part in the study—who were paid $150 a week—reported that about 3 percent of the sex acts they performed were “freebies” given to Chicago police officers to avoid arrest.
The study found full-time prostitutes made on average less than $20,000 a year. If they had a pimp, the women made a little more, even after giving up a 25 percent cut of their earnings. The women reported being beaten about once a month on average.
The study also found white and Hispanic men were charged more, while blacks and repeat customers paid less. Seasonal spikes in demand drove up prices, bringing more women into the market. Markets in Roseland and Pullman operated differently, the study found. In Pullman, prostitutes worked with one of four pimps, while in Roseland prostitutes worked the streets on their own.
The full draft of the paper is on the University of Chicago’s Web site, marked “extremely preliminary and incomplete.” A university spokesman said a final version of the paper is expected to be released in April.
[Editors Note: “An Empirical Analysis of Street-Level Prostitution,” by Steven D. Levitt and Sudhir Alladi Vankatesh can be read as an HTML document here. It can be read or downloaded as a PDF file document here.]