Do prostitutes need pimps?

by on December 22, 2006 at 7:31 am in Economics | Permalink

In the five years I observed vice in Maquis Park, there was only one fatality for a prostitute who was managed by a pimp.  In contrast, thirteen self-employed prostitutes died during the night hours at work.  Of these, ten died at the hands of either an abusive john, a spouse or partner jealous of their work, or a pimp trying to clear them away from a spot: the other three died of drug overdoses, although they too may have been dealing with some type of harassment.

Sex workers with pimps can earn more money, and their work is more steady.

Shades of Walter Block.  From this data set it does seem that pimps beat their prostitutes a lot, but that otherwise there are more beatings.  That is from Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor.  Here is my introductory post on the book.

Jeffrey Miller December 22, 2006 at 8:31 am

1 vs 13 is meaningless without knowing how many women were in each group and without having good reason to believe that the women in each group were similar in all relevant respects aside from having a pimp.

evm December 22, 2006 at 9:12 am

Comparing 1 vs 13 is potentially misleading. All observed data are meaningful. In order to survive, people must attempt to learn even when our sample sizes are small and unrepresentative – children playing with sharp objects. I submit that a learning rule which states that I will not shade my priors until I have been presented with a clean hypothesis test replicated with multiple unbiased datasets is probably a poor survival strategy. Defeat 1 vs 13 with more or better data, not no data.

zorn December 22, 2006 at 10:34 am

Interpreting data like this is problematic. It might tell us that in the situation as it is now, prositutes with pimps do better than those without. This might be due to actual protection by the pimps, or it might be due to selection effects on prostitutes. For example, those without pimps might be less experienced, less “streetwise,” or more desperate than those with them. In that case this wouldn’t be evidence for pimps benefitting prostitutes.

The main reason we might want to ask “do prostitutes need pimps?” is when considering interventions or policies to reduce the number of pimps. But this data tells us nothing helpful there. It appears that pimps currently help prostitutes (if they do) partly by protecting them from other pimps or clients.

K December 22, 2006 at 1:58 pm

The obvious step is to professionalize pimps. They can beat their own girls but must not hurt others. And they are free to beat, or otherwise deal with, any ‘non-professional’ pimps who won’t obey the rules.

For the girls the pimps would then be insurance. Their professional pimps would be trained to not beat them too badly or often. And they would be protected from a really horrible, career-ending, battering.

There is already a professional, supposedly disciplined, force available. The local police. Designate them the professional pimps. And freed of the nasty restraint of civil rights they would clear out the old volunteer pimps in short order.

Prostitution has survived every government initiative ever devised. And the governments themselves. But that is no reason to not alleviate the effects as we can.

Jeffrey Miller December 22, 2006 at 8:56 pm

evm, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t alter your priors when you aquire new data, but simply that in this case the information content of the data is small because facts like the percentage of prostitutes who have pimps isn’t provided. I don’t have any sense for whether this is 10% or 90% and clearly it makes a big difference to whatever conclusion you might want to make about this depressing topic.

John Salmon December 22, 2006 at 11:44 pm

In case I’m ever tempted to become a libertarian, I can refer back to this post and return to my conservative roots. Thanks.

Ray Gardner December 22, 2006 at 11:55 pm

Keep your values, but think free-market. . .

GVV December 23, 2006 at 5:50 am

Protector pimps and beating pimps,
Silent pimps and noisy pimps,
Class one prostitutes and third class ones,
Local villains and petty hooligans,
Hardened criminals and stealthy killers,
Invading terrorists and mischievous smugglers,
The underworld heirarchy thrives every where,
With conflicting games and cooperative games.

Burke December 26, 2006 at 3:11 pm

The problem with the analysis is that none of you are “involved” in the trade you merely speculate about the trade. I authored an article on bookmaking, you can find on my web site http://www.feeinc.com, that has attracted many economists to call me. What they say is “how do you come up with those numbers and how bookies operate?” It is simple I went out into the bookmaking community and learned what matters and what types of bookies exist. There are those who are bookies to support their gaming habit and those who make book an actuarial event. You cannot apply the same operational assumptions to both types.

Thus I suggest with prostitutes some work because they like the work and some because they have to. Further subdividing those who have to work for living reasons and for chemical dependency reasons.

Those who choose the line of work and have no chemical dependency can choose a pimp or a brothel.

Those who have to work in this line many need a pimp to bring in business and protection.

Those with chemical dependency issues are of no use to most pimps so they end up working alone. Druggies argue, fight lie and don’t show up work. Just because they are in the underground economy does not mean economics do not apply. They apply in the most pure form since there is little “government assistance” on how people should be employed and terminated.

So – what you may see in actuality may not be the result of choice, but one of selection pressure. Very different.

Sitting looking out ones window and constructing hypotheses of what one sees can lead to some odd and erroneous conclusions. One must go and visit with the workers and pay them for their time to talk about what they do and how they do it. Until then all of the discussions and hypothese are conference table poppycock. (Could not resist the adjective.)

MadasHell June 14, 2008 at 4:22 am

Women should unite and start kicking some ass!! We can only be victimized if we choose to be by these nasty men..who claim to look out for us. Those nasty pimps are out for themselves only and when women decide to wake up maybe there will be hope for dignity. Just watch out, i dont think those nasty watermelon eating bastards would want to come up against me. I will say this. If i see one on the street or driving a cadillac, i will shoot them between the eyes and cut off their dicks, shove them in their mouths…so they know what its like to suck a cock!!!!

Nightcristal October 13, 2008 at 5:47 pm

PIMPS are NOT needed at all!! who ever said that prostitutes make more money with pimps is a damn lie… TRUTHFULLY… they may make more money CLIENT wise.. but in the end EVERY LAST DIME a prostitute makes WHEN they have a pimp GOES STRAIGHT TO THE PIMP… so in other words an INDEPENDENT working girl may have less clients every day but at least she gets to keep 100% of her profit instead of being DADDYS little girl and giving all the money to SUPPORT the family… In that life style the girls never get ahead.. they are mearly working every day in benifit of the PIMP. Why do u think the pimp has a NICE CAR, with RIMS and some nice ass shoes cause his hoes payed for them. THe only stuff the girls get are enough food and water to keep them healthy and enough NEW clothes to make them look sexy enough for a CLIENT…
so in essence PLEASE GIRLS IF YOUR GOING TO WORK… PLEASE WORK FOR YOUR SELF. A PIMP WILL TELL YOU ANY AND EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO HEAR TO GET YOU ON HIS TEAM. Lets say you do decide to go with a pimp… its only a matter of time untill he has SOMETHING on you to MAKE you stay.. weither he knows your people and threatens to tell everyone.. or saying that you OWE him.. when its really that he OWES you…

A PIMP SHOULD NEVER BEABLE TO HIT A WORKING WOMAN… what ever the problem maybe.. if someone believes they can HIT you then they are treating you like PROPERTY. and not a FAMILY like i bet you was mentioned before you were DADDYS LITTLE GIRL!!!!

p.s. i am a working girl my self.. i have never been pimped and i will never ever will be.

Bigdaddy October 27, 2008 at 6:21 pm

lol If a girl works for a pim p Than that girl is protected But is carefull And befor you cry wolf narelty 80% of brothals mistresst thare workers

What you rthink is better Working in a brothal ware thares a chance you could end up being basted or killd or working for a pimp ware your protected by the pimp

madiha March 23, 2009 at 2:58 am

alright well i just gotta say… if u ever wanna be a strong ass women and not weak as helll by wannting to be fuked by all these nasty ass men to earn a couple of dollars den i suggest u defintely start getting off this prostitution shit and be a real woman .. seriously some of you women ruin us and the way we arre seen in soceity… WHAT IS DA POINT OF EVEN BEING A PROSTITUTE AND HAVING A PIMP.. its disgusting and you have no morals of values.. if u think its hard for u to get a job or something n itts just impossible n u gotta make some money.. den nooo its actualy not hard at all… nothing i impossilbe if u try hard enough.. n for some of u who feel as if u wanna live da galmourous life and be rich…. WTF you are the lowest of low and u have no respect or dignity.. everything u stand for is really cheap and wow im just shocked that there is such a thing as a pimp or a prostitue… all those fukin pimps out there dont even give a fuk about their hoes.. ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS THEMSELES AND THE THINGS THEY WANT AND NEED IN THEIR LIFE… i have had experiences and the FREE LIFE. .is much much better then this dumb bullshit … the risks in my daymn life.. being this way has no meanin in life.. i rather have all these bitches and dumbass ass pimp be dead naturally den to be killed .. its fukin stupid as helll seriosly make an honest life.. AND STOP RUINING YOUR LIVES YOU LOW ASS DUMB WHORES WHO CANT GET ENOUGH OF DICKS IN YOUR LIFE!!!!!!!

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