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Arunachalam, Raj, and M. Shah. 2012. "The Prostitute's Allure: The Return to Beauty in Commercial Sex Work." B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, 12(1).
We estimate the earnings premium for beauty in an occupation where returns to physical attractiveness are likely to be important: commercial sex work. Using data from sex workers in Ecuador and Mexico, we find that a one standard deviation increase in attractiveness yields 10-15 percent higher earnings. Including controls for personal characteristics (communication ability and desirability of personality) cuts the beauty premium by up to one-half. Beautiful sex workers earn higher wages, have more clients, and enjoy a larger compensating differential for disease risk.
Countries of focus: Ecuador, Mexico.