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It might be the "world's oldest profession," but in many ways prostitution is a mystery -- especially in the United States, where the sex trade is one of the country's largest unregulated industries. In an attempt to pull back the curtain on the business of sex, the Justice Department recently teamed up with The Urban Institute , a public-policy think tank, to study it.
The researchers interviewed pimps and sex workers in eight different cities. Their findings are not comprehensive -- they left out major cities like New York and Los Angeles, for example.
But their report still reveals some intriguing details. For example:. In case you had any doubt, there is big money in sex.
The chart above, produced by the Urban Institute, leaves out Kansas City, the eighth city studied in the report, because of a lack of data. The sex trade is not run by uneducated people. It's run by people who are struggling to find other opportunities. Of the pimps surveyed, just 5. One former sex worker said that her primary motivation for getting involved was the need to provide for her children:. And somebody had made the comment 'You got a million dollars between your legs' and I was like 'ok' and I just kind of fell into it, I guess you could say.
The researchers found people largely stay in or come back to the sex trade because they can't find work that makes as much elsewhere. Some 32 percent of respondents had a family member who was involved in pimping or prostitution before them, the report found. And for many, that had a large role in shaping their views toward the industry:. One night, I saw and asked. She said, 'The clothes on your back, the apartment, this is how I pay the rent. Then my sister and my momma did it.