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Human trafficking statistics: Politicians love them though they remain imprecise

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Washington Post, January 2022

Human trafficking, both for sex and labor, is a horrific crime plagued by poor statistics. Readers may recall that in 2015, The Fact Checker published a series of articles that debunked or exposed faulty statistics that anti-trafficking groups had used to garner institutional and financial support. The good news is that many anti-trafficking groups responded and scrubbed many of their websites and literature of unproven claims. The bad news is that there still are no reliable and up-to-date statistics that might illuminate the scope of the problem.

During her remarks, Vice President Harris noted that “globally, human trafficking is a $150 billion business.” That’s a 2014 estimate from the International Labour Organization that has not been updated, even though it is eight years old.

This month, both the new governor of Virginia and Harris relied on the same data source — an anti-trafficking group called Polaris — for the comments above. But it’s mostly an anecdotal one. We’re not going to put these remarks to The Pinocchio Test, but we thought it would be useful for readers to understand the limitations of this data.

Continue reading at the Washington Post.

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