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Women and Drugs Revisited: Female Participation in the Cocaine Economy

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 24 Issue: 1 and 2 Dated: (Winter/Spring 1994) Pages: 179-226
Date Published
48 pages
Data on both legal and illegal behaviors and incomes were collected through interviews with 311 women from two northern Manhattan neighborhoods with high concentrations of crack use and selling.

Recent changes in illicit drug use and drug markets, as well as simultaneous changes in the social and economic contexts where drugs are bought and sold suggest the possibility of significant shifts in women's involvement in drugs. The interaction between rapidly changing social structures and drug markets provides an explanatory framework for women's participation in the cocaine economy of New York City in the late 1980's. Findings from this study show that women were involved extensively in both drug selling and nondrug crimes as part of diverse income strategies. Drug incomes and expenses dominated the economic lives of women in the cocaine economy. Higher incomes from drug selling were inversely related to prostitution and legal work. Prostitution, property crimes, and assaults increased with the frequency of crack and cocaine use. Although women remain disadvantaged in highly gendered street networks of drug users, some women have constructed careers in illegal work that have insulated them from the exploitation that characterizes heavy cocaine and crack use. Although prostitution is a common role for many women, changes in the status of women in drug markets are evident in the relatively high incomes some achieve from selling drugs and their diverse roles in the cocaine economy. 11 tables and 128 references

Date Published: January 1, 1994