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BREAD Working Paper No. 293, January 2011

Risk-Coping through Sexual Networks: Evidence from Client Transfers in Kenya

Jonathan Robinson, Ethan Yeh

Abstract

Why do women engage in transactional sex? While much of the explanation is that sex-for-money pays more than other jobs, we use a unique panel dataset constructed from 192 self-reported diaries of sex workers in Western Kenya to show that women who supply transactional sex develop relationships with regular clients, and that these clients send transfers in response to negative income shocks. Regular clients are the primary source of inter-person insurance that women receive, and women report in a separate survey that client transfers are an important reason that they participate in the market.

Keywords: transactional sex, risk, insurance

JEL classification codes: O12, I10

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