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.

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