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Raj Arunachalam photo

The Prostitute's Allure: The Return to Beauty in Commercial Sex Work

Publication Abstract

Arunachalam, Raj, and M. Shah. 2012. "The Prostitute's Allure: The Return to Beauty in Commercial Sex Work." B E Journal of Economic Analysis & 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.

DOI:10.1515/1935-1682.3203 (Full Text)

Countries of focus: Ecuador, Mexico.

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