DP15188 Prostitution and Violence: Evidence from Sweden

Author(s): Giovanni Immordino, Maria Perrotta Berlin, Francesco Russo, Giancarlo Spagnolo
Publication Date: August 2020
Keyword(s): Asymmetric sanctions, COVID-19, Domestic violence, Policy spillovers, Prohibition, Prostitution, Regulation, Sex markets
JEL(s): H21, I18, L51, O17
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15188

The Swedish law on prostitution criminalizes buyers but not sellers of sexual services and has been credited with reducing street prostitution significantly while protecting sex workers. As a consequence, this "Nordic model" is spreading rapidly around the world, but as yet there has not been any rigorous evaluation of its effects on sex market participants or on society at large. We document an increase in violence against women following the law's introduction, ascribable mostly to domestic violence rather than violence against sex workers. We propose a model that rationalizes our findings and simulates the effects of alternative policies. The results also suggest that the lockdown on prostitution markets may have been one determinant of the surge in domestic violence observed during the Covid-19 crisis.