Research Handbooks in Law and Economics series
Edited by Lloyd R. Cohen and Joshua D. Wright
Jonathan Klick and Thomas Stratmann INTRODUCTION Is risky sex subject to the law of demand? To an economist, such a question is trivial, while the non-economist is likely to think the question is absurd. According to the economist, all goods are subject to the law of demand, and risky sex is a good; therefore, we should expect to see the demand for risky sex declining as its cost increases. Non-economists, however, are likely to scoff at such a notion. Sex in general and risky sex in particular is driven by emotions, and hormones, but rational cost-benefit analysis is likely to be absent even on the margin. As an empirical matter, examining the sensitivity of risky sex incidence to changes in costs and benefits is tricky. First, there is no reliable data on the incidence of risky sex. For many years, there are no real data available at all. Even when data have been collected, however, there are serious concerns about the data’s integrity. Second, it is hard to quantify the inherently subjective costs and benefits associated with sexual activities. Further, even if some metric were available, unobserved heterogeneity across individuals would likely generate statistical identification problems. However, in a series of papers, we have developed partial solutions to both of these problems, allowing us to identify the relationship between risky sex behavior and at least one major cost of risky sex – the risk of unwanted pregnancy. In this chapter, we describe this work and provide some extensions of it that...
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