Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Economics of Sex and Drug Use

Scott Cunningham is friend of mine from graduate school. Unlike me, he was wise enough to steer away from macroeconomics and instead got hooked on labor and health economics. Within this field he has done a lot of interesting work on the economics of sex and drug use. Here are some of his studies:
Abstract: In late August and early September, 2008, approximately 100,000 visitors came to Denver, Colorado and Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Economic theory suggests that males in transit can cause a shift in demand for commercial sex work. We estimate the responsiveness of labor supply to these two conventions, focusing on a previously neglected but increasingly important segment of the prostitution market: professional escorts who advertise on local prostitution solicitation websites. We find that the conventions caused a 35%-195% increase in advertisements in the affected markets.

Prostitution, Technology and the Law: New Data and Directions” (with Todd Kendall)
Abstract:The phenomenon of prostitution is an important determinant for marriage, divorce, intra‐family bargaining power, and polygamous activity, and has been a touchstone of government regulation. Recently, new communications technologies have changed the industrial organization of prostitution suppliers, potentially expanding this underground market in developed countries. We describe the institutions of prostitution as they exist in developed countries and how technology has affected these institutions. We describe several databases researchers can employ to study modern prostitution and we illustrate the value of these data with several empirical analyses, including a hedonic evaluation of prostitute characteristics and services, an analysis of the effects of an important change in the regulation of prostitute advertisement, and an estimate of the marital and family characteristics of technology‐facilitated prostitutes.

Parental Methamphetamine Use and Foster Care: Is the Growth in Foster Care Admissions Explained by the Growth in Meth Use?” (with Greg Rafert)
Abstract: Although foster care caseloads have almost doubled over the last two decades, little is known regarding the factors that contributed to this significant growth. This article focuses on one factor, parental illicit drug use, and examines the relationship between parental drug use and foster care admissions. To mitigate the impact of omitted variable and simultaneity bias, we take advantage of two significant, exogenous supply-side interventions in the methamphetamine market, and find robust evidence that methamphetamine use has led in part to the growth in foster care caseloads. Further, in identifying the precise mechanisms that translated growth in methamphetamine use to the observed increase in foster care caseloads, we find that parental incarceration and child neglect have played significant roles in bringing children into the U.S. foster care system. These results suggest that child welfare policies should be designed specifically for the children of methamphetamine-using parents.

Sex Ratios and Risky Sexual Behavior” (with Christopher Cornwell)
Abstract: Black Americans have dramatically higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), including HIV/AIDS, despite constituting a mere 12 percent of the population. Epidemiologists have suggested that these racial disparities persist because of a greater degree of concurrency in Black sexual networks, but this invites a question: why is the degree of concurrency higher in Black sexual networks? In this paper, we emphasize the relative shortage of men in Black communities, created largely by the high rates of Black male incarceration. We hypothesize that these high “sex ratios” allow for men with tastes for promiscuity to form concurrent partnerships, as well as affects their condom use.

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