Research Scientist Matt Kammer-Kerwick of IC²’s Bureau of Business Research participated in a January 18, 2018 panel on human trafficking and the research techniques used to fight it at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Austin.
Also on the panel was Dr. Melissa I.M. Torres of the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault at UT Austin. Torres and the IDVSA are long-time collaborators with the BBR on topics related to human trafficking, sexual assault, and campus sexual misconduct.
The AAAS panel addressed the multiple and complex research methods needed to understand the scope of human trafficking, also known as modern slavery.
Because modern slavery in developed countries is an underground activity, ordinary survey techniques do not work to count its victims. Instead, researchers in many countries and US states are developing new techniques.
One method, called Multiple Systems Estimation, measures it by cross-referencing existing data from multiple sources, such as health care provider and law enforcement records. Respondent driven sampling (RDS) is another technique, and is one being used by BBR and IDVSA in a current study in Texas. RDS used referrals from within communities at risk to develop more representative estimates from partially observable populations.
Preliminary benchmarks based on a systematic review and a meta-analysis were used in the 2017 report from the BBR and IDVSA entitled “Human Trafficking by the Numbers.” The study found that there are an estimated 313,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas, including approximately 79,000 minors who are victims of sex trafficking and approximately 234,000 adult victims of labor trafficking.
The scope of the problem uncovered by the BBR’s and IDVSA’s research is much larger than in previous studies that relied on identifying individual victims, necessitating a larger policy response. “We just need to expand greatly the amount of investment that’s needed for people to recover from these patterns of victimization,” said Kammer-Kerwick.
The AAAS panel addressed the wide variation of human trafficking in the world today. “Those faces [of trafficking victims] don’t really always look like what we think they look like. Trafficking happens in many forms. It’s a global issue that affects different populations in different ways,” said Torres. “There’s not going to be one response and one answer in addressing it.”
Watch the panel
2018 AAAS news briefing panel
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