The State Department has long claimed that "600,000 to 800,000" people are trafficked into slavery annually. I've never been able to figure out where that massive number came from. In a report released yesterday, the GAO gives us the answer: an unnamed person's undocumented guess. The researchers explain:
The U.S. government estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 persons are trafficked across international borders annually. However, such estimates of global human trafficking are questionable. The accuracy of the estimates is in doubt because of methodological weaknesses, gaps in data, and numerical discrepancies. For example, the U.S. government's estimate was developed by one person who did not document all his work, so the estimate may not be replicable, casting doubt on its reliability. Moreover, country data are not available, reliable, or comparable. There is also a considerable discrepancy between the numbers of observed and estimated victims of human trafficking. The U.S. government has not yet established an effective mechanism for estimating the number of victims or for conducting ongoing analysis of trafficking related data that resides within government entities.
Given that the chief successes of the War on Trafficking have involved locking up prostitutes, tightening borders, and closing off migration routes, the state-sponsored moral panic seems less and less justified.