Labor Exploitation and Human Trafficking

BBR research estimates that labor exploited by human traffickers is worth $600 million a year in Texas, and child sex trafficking alone costs the state $6 billion a year. For almost a decade, the Bureau has worked with scholars from the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in developing a line of research on the economic and social impact of labor exploitation and human trafficking in the state. From benchmarking the extent of human trafficking in Texas in 2016 to an in-depth study of child sex trafficking in 2019, BBR researchers have pushed the scholarly boundaries of human trafficking research in remarkable ways.

With two grants from the National Science Foundation, BBR researchers are developing a model-based decision framework and specific interventions to help policymakers and workers prevent and respond to labor exploitation and trafficking. In the chaotic rebuild and recovery environment following natural disasters such as hurricanes and pandemics, day laborers and low-skilled workers in the construction supply chain are particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation. The exacerbating influences that ongoing natural disasters like COVID-19 have on labor supply chains allow the decision framework to be developed with built-in resilience. The project will involve early-career scholars, graduate students, women, minorities, and multiple institutions and will more broadly facilitate future involvement of the behavioral science and decision science communities in the disruption of illicit supply networks.

Recent and Representative Publications

“To the Public, Nothing was Wrong with Me”: Life Experiences of Minors and Youth in Texas At Risk for Commercial Sexual Exploitation (2019)

“Let’s Close Service Provider Gaps for Victims of Sex Trafficking in Texas” (2019)

Disrupting Illicit Supply Networks: New Applications of Operations Research and Data Analytics to End Modern Slavery (2018)

Economics of Human Trafficking (book chapter, 2018)

Human Trafficking by the Numbers: The Initial Benchmark of Prevalence and Economic Impact for Texas (2016)

Contact Dr. Matt Kammer-Kerwick, BBR Senior Research Scientist, for more information about this research area.