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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.

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  1. Hmmm, sounds similar to the way my wife comes up with many of her “facts”.

  2. The number probably is accurate if they are including all graduate students in universities.

  3. Brett – it also sounds like the exact same methodology that my wife uses to draw conclusions.

  4. Same guy that wrote Deadwood conjured up the trafficking numbers.

  5. TWC, are you telling me Calamity Jane was not a lesbian?

  6. Its called a WAG. Wild Ass Guess.

  7. I think it’s interesting that every investigation into “sex slaves” ends with the “slaves” being thrown in jail.

  8. While there are certainly some tragic genuine cases of people being trafficked for sexual exploitation, the numbers have probably always been inflated because the jobs of so many NGO employees depend on them.

  9. I think that it is outrageous that a government that is serious about this or any other important issue would publish baseless statistics to bolster their case. These lies have a tendency of coming back to bite the liars. In the process, it distracts from real issues effecting real people. Modern day slavery is real and must be addressed. I hope that a competent administration will come into office and do just that.

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