The Economic Returns to Good Looks and Risky Sex in the Bangladesh Commercial Sex Market

Asadul Islam 1 , 1  and Russell Smyth 2 , 2
  • 1 Monash University, asadul.islam@monash.edu
  • 2 Monash University, russell.smyth@monash.edu

Abstract

This study examines the economic returns to beauty and unprotected sex in the commercial sex market in Bangladesh. The results show that there is a beauty premium for commercial sex work, but it is within the bounds of the economic returns to beauty for women in occupations that do not involve sex work. We find that there is an earnings premium for sex workers who sell unprotected sex and that more attractive sex workers charge a higher premium for unprotected sex. This result is consistent with more attractive people being better placed to bargain with others and with male clients being more likely to overvalue the returns to immediate sexual gratification and to engage in risk taking activities in the presence of attractive sex workers. The results are robust to alternative empirical specifications.

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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy (BEJEAP) is an international forum for scholarship that employs microeconomics to analyze issues in business, consumer behavior and public policy. Topics include the interaction of firms, the functioning of markets, the effects of domestic and international policy and the design of organizations and institutions.

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