Caught my eye

1. The economics of prostitution.  The best way to limit prostitution is to raise male wages, thereby increasing the return to becoming a wife.

2. New social science research on shopping behavior, via

3. Grant McCracken on ethnography and marketing, here and here.

4. Dolphins call each other by names.


I don't know if I believe #1

From the article: "Wives and prostitutes are competing "commodities" (in the reductionist view of economists, that is), but wives are distinctly superior in that they can produce children that are socially recognized as coming from the father."

So yes raising male wages limits protitution, but only so long as males desire "children that are socially recognized as coming from the father." But does having children still bestow the same social status in a world of rising male (and female) incomes? It certainly doesn't seem that males in developed societies care as much about having socially recognized offspring.

I didn't read the actual academic article, but the dolphin story doesn't seem to compelling. 9 out of 14 turned around, for a CI of 0.39 to 0.84. Not much to write home about if you ask me.

Your post inspired me to write my own take on the economics of prostitution.

That this academic paper exists shows why the rest of us should be extremely skeptical of economists.

Did they actually interview prostitutes to determine their motivations? Nope. Who needs to do that when you can just make assumptions. What genius! Forget actually trying to determine the truth about a fundamental fact crucial to all other conclusions. Assume it away. Hey, if life is too messy, we can't show off our ability to perform basic mathematics based on unrealistic assumptions. And we wouldn't want that, would we? What a loss to society it would be if these mathematical formula, purporting to say something about the world, but failing to do so based on faulty assumptions, were not published.

Of course, they did cite a study where 175 prostitutes were interviewed and they did mention that many of these prostitutes claimed not to regret their choices. But the question arises, why should we believe them? It seems that they have adequate incentive to not admit this to those interviewing them. Many people would not be willing to admit that they had majorly screwed up in making a major life decision.

The conclusion of the author of the article at which references the study in question is absolutely ridiculous. What we should do is morally condemn prostitution more, not less. Recognize prostitution for what it is. Exploitation. Pure and simple. No mathematical models invented by amoral economists will change that basic fact. Maybe the economic theory will make them feel better about their own morally deprave choices, but it will not change the fundamental reality of the situation.


You say I am confused, but you don't articulate how you think I am confused.

Prostitutes are obviously exploited, whether they acknowledge that fact or not. No confusion there.

Overall, I like this blog. That is why I read it. But what I don't like are silly economics articles that masquerade as genuine scholarship. I will admit, though, that I am painting with too broad of a brush. Many economists are not amoral freaks who think that mathematical equations can substitute for actual thought. Too many are, though.

It should be interesting to watch China over the next several decades. They're exporting so many of their female infants through international adoption, that they're skewing the male/female ratio in the country. If the prostitution thesis is true, China is where the money is going to be for prostitutes over the next quarter-century or so. Not to mention most other professions....

#1. Interesting that even though this sentence is included in the article:

"More obvious perhaps is that prostitution generally declines in areas where women's incomes and opportunities are greater.

Putting these two tendencies together suggests that if one wishes to reduce prostitution, increasing the incomes of both men and women is likely to be more effective than imposing legal penalties. "

Yet the focus of both your mention and the article are more marriage vs. prostitution, rather than prostitution vs. alternative employment.

Your bias doesn't quite make it to an endorsement of the concept of female as property. But it gets very, very close. However it does seem to support a separate economic class for women going forward.

I would be curious as to why one should choose Increasing Men's Wages/Marriage vs. Prostitution rather than Increasing Wages/Alternative employment vs. Prostitution as a focus?

Is that a preferred political outcome? Albeit it is a small off the cuff statement "The best way to limit prostitution is to raise male wages, thereby increasing the return to becoming a wife." Yet still, the POV choice is fascinating to me. And seems slightly contrary to the evidence offered, or perhaps less than the evidence offered suggested, less in a very interesting way.

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