Estimating the sex buying behavior of adult males in the United States: List experiment and direct question estimates

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, Stephanie Bontrager, Justin T. Pickett, Anna E. Kosloski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Estimating the size of the sex buyer market in the United States has been stymied by methodological and sampling challenges. Given known methodological issues in self-reporting and the sensitive nature of purchasing sex, current research faces challenges in providing estimates of demand for purchasing sex. This study used a unique approach to estimate the prevalence of sex buying by men over the age of 18 in the United States. Methods: This study employed a double list experiment and a direct ask question to a nationally representative sample of 2525 adult males to estimate the size of the sex buyer market in the United States. Results: The double list experiment found the prevalence of sex purchasing is roughly 1 of every 50 adult males in the U.S. (2%)over the 3 years. The direct ask questions found that roughly 1 of every 25 males in the U.S. (4%)had purchased sex in the past 3 years. How they purchased and who they purchased sex from was also explored. A total of 80 respondents reported buying sex during the past 3 years. They spent an average of $120 for their most recent sex-buying encounter. Most sex buyers reported buying sex from an offline venue (street, bar, or massage parlor)and 81% purchased sex from a female. Applying the estimate of sex buying behavior to the general male population in the U.S. results in approximately 4 million men over the age of 18 purchasing sex the past 3 years. Conclusions: The findings from both the double list experiment and the direct ask question indicate that buying sex is a relatively rare phenomenon among adult males, however, when accounting for multiple purchases and extrapolating to the entire population the estimated purchases is in the millions. Applying the double list experiment and a direct ask question to a nationally representative sample provides a new way to capture estimates while addressing some of the limitations of previous methods. Such findings have implications for both the criminal justice and public health sectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-48
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Volume63
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

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Keywords

  • Commercial sex
  • Prevalence
  • Prostitution
  • Sex buyers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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