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Do Sexually Oriented Massage Parlors Cluster in Specific Neighborhoods? A Spatial Analysis of Indoor Sex Work in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, California



Social determinants of health may be substantially affected by spatial factors, which together may explain the persistence of health inequities. Clustering of possible sources of negative health and social outcomes points to a spatial focus for future interventions. We analyzed the spatial clustering of sex work businesses in Southern California to examine where and why they cluster. We explored economic and legal factors as possible explanations of clustering.


We manually coded data from a website used by paying members to post reviews of female massage parlor workers. We identified clusters of sexually oriented massage parlor businesses using spatial autocorrelation tests. We conducted spatial regression using census tract data to identify predictors of clustering.


A total of 889 venues were identified. Clusters of tracts having higher-than-expected numbers of sexually oriented massage parlors ("hot spots") were located outside downtowns. These hot spots were characterized by a higher proportion of adult males, a higher proportion of households below the federal poverty level, and a smaller average household size.


Sexually oriented massage parlors in Los Angeles and Orange counties cluster in particular neighborhoods. More research is needed to ascertain the causal factors of such clusters and how interventions can be designed to leverage these spatial factors.

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