26 May 2009

Human Trafficking Research

With funding support from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ GRANT-2007-VT-BX-K002) researchers Elzbieta Gozdiak and Micha Bump of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University have complied a comprehensive bibliography of research related to Human Trafficking. Their report is called: Data and Research on Human Trafficking: Bibliography of Research-Based Literature.

Gozdiak and Bump begin by noting that " In the United States, human trafficking became a focus of activities in the late 1990s and culminated in the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) signed into law on October 16, 2000. With the enactment of the TVPA, the United States took a lead in combating human trafficking, prosecuting traffickers, and protecting victims."

The objective of their project was to compile a comprehensive bibliography of English language research-based literature on trafficking in persons, including trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation as well as trafficking to obtain human organs, and to create a taxonomy to categorize the results.

They identified 741 citations including reports, journal articles, and books.
  • REPORTS: Reports accounted for more than half (58%) of all identified publications. Most (68%) of the 429 report were based on empirical research. There was a preponderance of qualitative methodologies, however 95 reports did rely on quantitative research. Most samples were convenience samples.
  • JOURNAL ARTICLES: Two hundrend eighteen journal articles were identified, but only 39 were based on empirical research. All but one used qualitative methodologies, and the samples were generally quite small, and not randomly assigned. Most of the empirical research focuses on trafficking for sexual exploitation; only three out of the 39 journal articles deal with trafficking for labor exploitation and one focuses on domestic servitude. Thirty of the empirical research articles discuss trafficked women, seven discuss trafficked children, and two include discussion of trafficked men. The authors note that "very little is known about trafficking of men and boys, either for sexual exploitation or bonded labor. Only 14 journal articles include discussion of male victims of trafficking and one discusses the plight of male children."
  • BOOKS: Ninety four (94) books were identified, the vast majority of which were based on non-empirical research.

Conclusions on the State of Research:

  • "The analysis of the compiled bibliography on trafficking in persons suggests that the dominant anti-trafficking discourse is not evidence-based but grounded in the construction of particular mythology of trafficking (Sanghera 2005: 4). Despite the increased interest in human trafficking, relatively little systematic, empirically grounded, and based on solid theoretical underpinnings research has been done on this issue."
  • Ideology and activism have seriously contaminated research on Human Trafficking.
  • Research on human trafficking is largely disconnected from theory.
  • "There is a need for both quantitative and qualitative research that would provide both macro-and micro-level understanding of the trafficking phenomenon. Rigorous ethnographic and sociological studies based on in-depth interviews with trafficking survivors would provide baseline data on trafficking victims and their characteristics."
  • "Given the fact that services to trafficked persons are in their infancy, monitoring and evaluation studies should be an integral part of every assistance program, public and private. Well-designed monitoring and evaluation studies, particularly external evaluations, can identify effective policies and ‘best practice’ approaches as well as assess the success of different programs."
  • "There is also a need for effective cooperation and coordination of research within and among different regions of the world. In addition, there is a need to establish a forum where research results can be exchanged between different scholars as well as shared with policy makers and service providers; such a forum can take a form of a specialized publication or an international task force."
In addition to the printed bibliography, all citations will be available in an EndNote database from NIJ.