Nature and Extent of Human Trafficking Projects

NIJ has funded projects to better understand the nature and extent of human trafficking.

On this page find:

Labor Trafficking in San Diego County

According to a report from researchers at San Diego State University, approximately 38,000 unauthorized Spanish-speaking victims of human trafficking work in San Diego County, California. These workers, who represent 31 percent of unauthorized Spanish-speaking workers in the county, have experienced an incident that meets the official definition of human trafficking. The analysis estimates that of the approximately 174,240 unauthorized Mexicans in San Diego County, about 124,460 are in the labor market. Learn more about this study.

Understanding the Prevalence of Child Sexual Exploitation in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico

This research project collected and used first-generation baseline data concerning the prevalence of child sexual exploitation in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The project identified the nature, extent, and causes of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in the region; and the modes of operation of networks of adult criminals engaged in CSEC.M

This research was completed and published by the University of Pennsylvania in 2002. Results of this research are available in:

Social Consequences of Sex Trafficking

This project described the social consequences of sex trafficking; examined patterns of violence, crime, health and other human costs; and demonstrated that sex trafficking is a complex system dependent on international and domestic linkages. The study follows the path of trafficked women from the point of entrance into the U.S. sex industry.  Read the results of this study, performed by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, in 2001, in the report Sex Trafficking of Women in the U.S. (pdf, 140 pages).

Chinese Human Smuggling Organizations (California State University)

U.S. researchers collaborated with researchers in Fuzhou (China) to examine the structure and operation of Chinese human smuggling organizations. This project investigated the individual and group characteristics of people smugglers; the financial and violent aspects of illegal migration; the relationship between human smuggling and Chinese gangs and organized crime groups; and the alleged connection between human trade and government corruption. It was found that most smugglers were ordinary citizens with social networks providing the necessary connections and resources to profit from human trade. Results of this research, performed by the California State University, are available:

Trafficking in Women from Ukraine

This project was a qualitative descriptive research study on the nature and extent of trafficking in women from the Ukraine. A questionnaire to measure attitudes towards trafficking was administered, and the attributes of victims of sexual exploitation were evaluated, as were the operational dynamics of trafficking in women and children in Ukraine. This research project was part of a larger partnership program between NIJ, the U.S. State Department, and the Ukrainian Academy of Law Sciences.

This research was completed by the University of Rhode Island in 2003. Results of this research are available:

Cases of Human Trafficking in the U.S.: A Content Analysis of a Calendar Year

This study searched for known human trafficking cases in major U.S. newspapers in multiple American cities (located near national borders) over the course of a calendar year. Seven search terms were used including "human trafficking," "drug trafficking," "smuggling," "prostitution," "illegal immigration," "alien," and "refugee," followed by a content analysis of each media account. A replication study, covering cases discovered two years later, is in progress. Results from this NIJ intramural research project are available in:

  • The International Journal of Comparative Criminology, vol. 4 (2004). See the article "Cases of Human Trafficking in the United States : A Content Analysis of a Calendar Year in 18 Cities." by Jay Albanese, Jennifer Schrock Donnelly, and Talene Kelegian.  
  • The book Transnational Crime (de Sitter Publications, 2005).

Estimating Human Trafficking: Development of a Methodology. This project developed a method that will generate credible and reproducible estimates of the prevalence of human trafficking in the U.S. Specifically, this project:

  1. Described the stages of trafficking from countries of origin into the U.S.
  2. Identified potential data sources for assessing each stage.
  3. Determined gaps in data and suggested means to fill the gaps.
  4. Produced a method to estimate the magnitude of human trafficking.
  5. Created a preliminary estimate of human trafficking from Central America across the southwest U.S. border.

A Phase II contract has been awarded to allow the researchers to further test and refine their measurements of victims originating in Eastern Europe.

Results of the initial phase of this project, performed by Caliber Associates, are available in the grant report, Estimating Human Trafficking: Development of a Methodology (pdf, 69 pages)

Assessing the Extent of Human Trafficking: A Community Outreach Approach (Vera Institute)

In collaboration with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the researcher will design and conduct a multisite field test of a data collection instrument in New York City to more effectively identify and gather data on individual victims of trafficking, and provide critical information to law enforcement, service providers, and government officials. Information generated will serve the dual purpose of assisting service providers in identifying victims and providing researchers with data on victim demographics, migratory and employment histories, criminal networks, and the process of victim discovery. The results will draw conclusions about the feasibility of implementing the data-collection instrument in other jurisdictions, point to best practices, and standardize protocols for victim identification.

The Transnational Movement of Chinese Women for Commercial Sex Acts (Rutgers University)

This is an examination of the underlying reasons, methods, characteristics, and groups involved in the illicit movement of women from China to elsewhere in Asia and the U.S. Approximately 300 interviews will be conducted at seven different research sites (Hong Kong/Macau, Tokyo, Taipei, Bangkok, Singapore, New York City, and Los Angeles) with those working in the sex industry, those involved in industry operations, legal authorities, and victim service providers.

Date Modified: November 27, 2012