Estimating the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in the United States: Considerations and Complexities

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Date of Publication: 
September, 2019
Source Organization: 

While many people in the United States understand that human trafficking presents a serious human rights violation, there is significant confusion as to the scale of the problem and the best strategies to address it. ”Estimating the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in the United States: Considerations and Complexities” provides a summary of presentations given during a two day workshop on estimating the prevalence of human trafficking. One challenge lies in the fact that the meaning of the term “human trafficking” can vary across cultures and among researchers and organizations. The way in which human trafficking is defined will determine how incidents are counted, and thus will have a direct bearing on prevalence estimations. There are also methodological challenges involved in collecting data on human trafficking. A lack of visibility for trafficking can make it difficult to identify victims and estimate the prevalence of trafficking in vulnerable populations. Much of the workshop consisted of reports from organizations in the forefront of improving metrics for human trafficking, including the International Conference of Labor Statisticians, the International Labor Organization, the “Research to Action” Project of the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative of the International Organization for Migration. The workshop, which was sponsored by the Office on Women’s Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, underscored the link between prevalence estimation and effective public policy: a clear picture of the size and scope of the problem can help researchers to inform and gain support from policy makers. (Courtney Grant for the Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Download now or view online.


National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Estimating the prevalence of human trafficking in the United States: Considerations and complexities (Proceedings of a workshop--in brief). Retrieved from