(1) Under repressive policies, sex workers are at disproportionate risk for violence and sexually transmitted infections. The decriminalization of sex work provides increased social and health benefits to both sex workers and society. This is the first research that complements human rights-based messages with a quantifiable economic impact of such a law and a model for future calculations. (2) This research assesses the potential economic consequences of decriminalizing sex work in the District of Columbia (DC) in three areas: (A) income tax revenue, (B) criminal justice system savings, and (C) health sector savings (due to averted cases of violence, HIV, gonorrhea, and herpes). (3) An economic model is developed and utilized based on data from a literature search and agency records. (4) Decriminalizing sex work in DC will generate USD5348.68 per sex worker and USD2.53 per client annually, plus USD20,118.48 in criminal justice system savings a year. Per sex worker, USD5058.08 will be gained from income tax revenue, and USD290.60 will be generated through health sector savings (USD274.65, 0.02, 15.64, and 0.29 from averted cases of violence, HIV, gonorrhea, and herpes, respectively). Per client, decriminalization will generate USD0.05, 2.32, and 0.16 from averted cases of HIV, gonorrhea, and herpes, respectively, or USD8462.35 annually, after considering the total number of clients. Estimates are reported in 2020 USD. (5) The potential economic impact of decriminalizing sex work is widespread. The presented model, in conjunction with a rights-based foundation, should urgently be used by advocates, sex workers, decision makers, and other researchers.
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