Methods: Databases
Fields: Economics, Informatics

Project Lead: Sam Henly, a PhD student in the UW Department of Economics
eScience Liaison: Andrew Whitaker, Data Scientist, eScience Institute


Graphs of unique ads on display on an escort advertising page on each day of December 2013.

Number of unique ads on display on an escort advertising page on each day of December 2013. The series for each region is divided by the region’s mean daily ad count for the month.

Most prostitution in the United States is organized through Internet media. This presents an opportunity for research into a market that, historically, has proved impenetrable to systematic investigation.

APSASIA is an effort to collect all of the data generated by market participants’ use of web platforms—advertising sites, review sites, forums, and so on—and use them to create a rich and real-time map of prostitution activity. Once complete, this data set will permit us to describe with great granularity the labor side of the market for sex in the United States and Canada, and the effects of policy interventions on that market.

The figure above illustrates the daily intensity of advertising by sex workers in each of 24 metropolitan areas in the United States. These series may be used to evaluate the effect of external events on markets for sex in cities.

For example, officials frequently claim that the Superbowl results in a boom in sex work; these series may confirm or reject such claims. More importantly, we will use these series to evaluate whether anti-prostitution stings are effective in suppressing markets for sex.

Click here to read the project’s full summary.