NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Does Competition Eliminate Discrimination? Evidence from the Commercial Sex Market in Singapore

Huailu Li, Kevin Lang, Kaiwen Leong

NBER Working Paper No. 20911
Issued in January 2015
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Labor Studies

The street sex worker market in Geylang, Singapore is highly competitive. Clients can search legally at negligible cost. Sex workers discriminate based on client ethnicity despite an excess supply of sex workers. Workers are more (less) likely to approach and ask a higher (lower) price of Caucasians (Bangladeshis), based on their perceived willingness to pay. They avoid Indians, set a significantly higher price and are less likely to reach an agreement with them, suggesting that Indians face taste discrimination. These findings remain even after controlling for prostitute fixed effects and are consistent with the workers' self-reported attitudes and beliefs.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20911

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