Unveiling the Price of Obscenity: Evidence From Closing Prostitution Windows in Amsterdam

Erasmo Giambona, Rafael P. Ribas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Does legitimating sinful activities have a cost? This paper examines the relationship between housing demand and overt prostitution in Amsterdam. In our empirical design, we exploit the spatial discontinuity in the location of brothel windows created by canals, combined with a policy that forcibly closed some of the windows near these canals. To pin down their effect on housing prices, we apply a difference-in-discontinuity (DiD) estimator, which controls for the precise location of brothel windows and the effect of other policies and local developments. Our results show that the housing prices are discontinuous at the bordering canals, and this discontinuity nearly disappears after closures. The discontinuity is also found to decrease with the distance to brothels, disappearing after 300 yards. Our estimates indicate that homes right next to sex workers were 30 percent cheaper before the closures. This result seems unrelated to the presence of other businesses, such as bars and cannabis shops. Instead, the price discount is partly explained by petty crimes. However, 73 percent of the effect remains unexplained after controlling for many forms of crime and risk perception. Our findings suggest that households tend to be against the visible presence of sex workers and related nuisances, reaffirming their marginalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-705
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Policy Analysis and Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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