As Gary Becker pointed out – not part of the work which gained him his Nobel in fact – the question is not why Mia Khalifa was paid so little but why was she paid so much? $12,000 for three month’s part time work is actually quite a lot of money. It’s up there at median household income for the US for that part time work at unskilled labour. Why so much therefore?
Mia Khalifa – once the most popular (adult) star on the planet – has just done the least sexy thing a woman can do: speak out against the adult entertainment industry, the one that made her rich and famous. Well, famous at least; Khalifa has been frank about how little she made during her three-month stint in (such adult work) – about $12,000, which is made even more paltry given it has since blocked her getting work in other professions. She added that she has “never seen a penny” from a site still hosting videos of her under her name; that she does not own the domain name and has been trying to get it altered for years, to no avail. “corporations prey on callow young women and trap them legally into contracts when they’re vulnerable,” she said.
Becker’s answer was that there are two sets of payments going on here. There is firstly that payment for the basic labour. Which is unskilled labour, obviously enough. Yes, true, there’s a certain skill at the activity itself but billions upon billions of people have the basic equipment to do that. Even then if we’re to talk about exact skills they’re those which are largely picked up on the job or through general life experience.
This is work therefore that would seem likely to attract the wages of “general undifferentiated labour” or, as we might also call it, minimum wage.
But it quite obviously doesn’t attract that level of wages. Rather, considerably more – no one does make $12,000 for 3 month’s part time minimum wage work. Becker’s answer being that there’s also an amount of running down of capital assets going on, something that will indeed be compensated for in a market system. The high wages of the job are therefore a result of both the labour element and that human capital one. Khalifa’s actually making this complaint herself:
even more paltry given it has since blocked her getting work in other professions.
That’s why the wages are so high.