The Socio-Economics around Traffickers, their Victims, and their Consumers


Photo Credit: Human Trafficking Center

Economic and social factors are big contributors to the continuity of human trafficking.  Demand for people is one of the key components of the black market economy that drives this wretched practice, along with the allure of big money to be made by the traffickers through the exploitation of other’s lives. In addition, the price to acquire victims today is much less than that of antebellum slaves. As a result, the lives of those victims are far less valuable to the traffickers than those of slaves of the past as they are more expendable now.

Most trafficking victims come from extremely poor socio-economic backgrounds, making them more vulnerable to human trafficking than that of more well-to-do youth. As the Health and Human Rights Journal supports, these victims are in poor social backgrounds often as a result of many accumulating issues, including “ the impact of poverty, of war, of a sex industry” which put them in the particularly vulnerable position of being in a poor socio-economic class. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center also highlights this, emphasizing that runaway and homeless youth, foreign nationals, and past trauma and violence victims are more susceptible to future exploitation through trafficking.

In a report from the International Harvard Review, Siddharth Kara asserted that  “Whereas slaves in 1850 could be purchased for a global weighted average of between US$9,500 and US$11,000 (adjusted for inflation) and generate roughly 15 to 20 percent in annual return on investment, today’s slaves sell for a global weighted average of US$420 and can generate 300 to 500 percent or more in annual return on investment, depending on the industry.” This factor, the cheapness by which they can be acquired and the large sums that they can accrue for the trafficker, are a continuing factor in this issue.  As one report illustrates, these traffickers can be anyone: a friend, a neighbor, small business owners, families, or diplomats. The list goes on and on.  What draws all of these seemingly good people into this filthy, exploitative practice then? The answer is simple: the economic seduction of money. One reliable source estimates that transnational human trafficking makes over $32 billion, while traffickers in the U.S. make on average $67,200 per victim a year. This troubling statistic indicates the true motivation of traffickers.

So we know how easy it is for traffickers to obtain new victims for trafficking, which leaves us with the question: Who is consuming  these trafficking victims? Who is driving the demand for this unfortunate, exploitative economic opportunity? The U.S. Department of State asserts that those who buy sex, usually men, are responsible for the demand in sex trafficking and exploitation. While not much information exists on those who are actually taking advantage of these victims, studies have shown that those people who have engaged in viewing pornography, attended strip bars, or participated in prostitution are less likely to have any concern about the existence of human trafficking.  While we can not pinpoint one definite group of people fueling the demand for human trafficking, we can identify the detrimental behaviors that contribute to the numbing of concern for this issue and combat those detriments.

A majority of trafficking victims come from relatively poor socio-economic backgrounds and are therefore more susceptible to exploitation by traffickers motivated by the promise of fortune. These traffickers supply victims for exploitation to those whose view of sex has been perverted by pornography and other detrimental behaviors, making it nearly impossible to determine one set group of consumers and perpetrators of sex trafficking.

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