The economics of Sex Work

A landmark government study issued earlier this week finds that the sex trade can be a very lucrative business.

The report, commissioned by the Justice Department from the Urban Institute, compiled data from eight cities: Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Miami, San Diego, Seattle and Washington, D.C. According to the report, the trade is most lucrative in Atlanta, where it rakes in $290 million annually—more than the underground drug and gun trades combined.

The study also examined the sex trade in the internet age, where advertising sites like Craigslist have radically changed the business. Robert Kolker, an editor at New York magazine, examined this issue in his book, "Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery." Kolker began his research by exploring a string of prostitution murders on Long Island.

He uncovered a range of economic issues that push many women into the sex trade, topics familiar to Melissa Gira Grant, author of "Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work."

Grant and Kolker discuss the economics of sex work and the challenges facing many women in the industry.