Are the Wages of Sin $30 an Hour?

Economic Aspects of Street Level Drug Dealing

by Robert J. MacCoun, Peter Reuter

The authors of this study interviewed 186 probationers in Washington, D.C., who acknowledged a recent history of drug dealing. Questions concerned their legitimate and illegitimate activities. Interviewees reported median net earnings of $721 per month from drug sales — $2,000 per month among the 37% who reported selling drugs on a daily basis. These figures compare with median monthly earnings of $800 from legitimate employment for the 75% who reported such earnings. Street-level drug dealing appears to be a complement to, rather than a substitute for, legitimate employment, and it appears to be less profitable than media reports would suggest.

Originally published in: Crime and Delinquency, v. 38, no. 4, October 1992, pp. 477-491.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.