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US prostitution study finds that pimps can pull in US$33,000 a week

CHICAGO--From streetwalkers who charge as little as US$5 per sex act to pimps who bring in tens of thousands a week, prostitution is big business in the United States a study released Wednesday found.

With a plethora of massage parlors, makeshift brothels, secretive high-end escorts and overt online ads, the underground commercial sex economy has long been known to be complex and extremely lucrative.

The Urban Institute is the first research group to come up with a solid estimate on how much money changes hands and how the market for sex works in eight U.S. cities.

In the tourism and convention hub of Atlanta, Georgia, the underground sex economy was pegged at US$290 million a year — more than the illicit sale of drugs and guns combined.

Sex was also big business in Miami — once again outdoing drugs and guns — although the study sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department found that it had fallen to US$235 million in 2007 from US$302 million in 2003.

The sex trade also shrank in the nation's capital, and at US$103 million a year was in line with drug trafficking and well below the US$160 million spent on illegal guns in Washington.

The most fascinating part of the study came from interviews with pimps, prostitutes and police who provided an intimate, inside-look at the sex trade.

Of the dozens of pimps who were interviewed in jail, many spoke openly of their preference for young white women — or even girls — because they're “easier to manage,” better able to blend in and are believed to be what clients typically want.

Pimps Prefer White Women

“They have a saying in the pimp game, 'if it ain't white, it ain't right,” one pimp said.

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