Human Trafficking: Not All Black or White

us-ethnicity-form-19144144The link between domestic sex trafficking and racial discrimination—while undeniable, is not immediately clear. What is clear; however, is that the demography of domestic sex trafficking is very different from the racial make up of the United States. In a recent report by the Office of Victims of Crime, of the confirmed sex trafficking victims, 40.4 percent of victims were African-American. This is almost four times higher than the percentage of African-Americans living in the United States, which the US Census Bureau currently lists as 13.1 percent of the total population. The FBI claims an even more surprising statistic for arrests under the age of 18, black children make up 55 % of all prostitution-related arrests in the U.S. White / Caucasian women and girls represent the second highest number of sex trafficking victims as 25.6 percent. This number is drastically lower than the current amount of White / Caucasian people in the United States, which as the majority ethnic group, makes up 75.1 percent of the country’s total population. According to the report by the Office of Victims of Crime, women and girls who are African-American or White / Caucasian are more likely to become victims of sex trafficking than any other ethnic group in the United States. But why are African-American victims overrepresented and White / Caucasian victims underrepresented in sex trafficking?

Some argue that it is simple economics that causes racial disparities in trafficking—the demand for one race is higher than the demand for another. That could possibly explain why the percent of Asian American sex trafficking victims matches within one percent the racial makeup in the United States (four and five percent respectfully). Many traffickers are also savvy businessmen who are just trying to keep people that were marketable. In a recent Urban Institute study that looked at the economics of human trafficking, of the traffickers interviewed, the majority overwhelming believed that trafficking white women would make them more money but trafficking black women would land them less jail time if caught. Most of the traffickers interviewed had trafficked women and girls of different races since having a variety of products to sell was good for business.

There has never been a demographic survey of sex trafficking victims in the United States, so what little information we have is based off of non-profit reports and small government studies. Since most of the reports trying to link race and sex trafficking are taken from a small sample of the population, the results seem to leave more questions then answers. Without a comprehensive survey of victims of domestic sex trafficking, the gross racial disparity of sex trafficking victims will remain unknown—or worse, ignored.