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Human Trafficking PDF icon

Collecting statistics on human trafficking—the illegal trading of human beings for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor—is particularly difficult because of the hidden nature of trafficking activities. Although the majority of labor trafficking victims are undocumented or qualified aliens, the majority of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are U.S. citizens. Recently, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)-led task forces have conducted hundreds of investigations of suspected traffickers, and the DOJ filed charges in a record number of cases, most of which involved sex trafficking. Victimization patterns vary by age, sex (most are female), and ethnicity. Although allegations generally involve one type of trafficking, investigations have identified a range of types of trafficking per incident.

  • In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) charged a total of 118 defendants in forced labor and adult sex trafficking cases, representing a 19 percent increase over the number of defendants charged in the previous year and the highest number ever charged in a single year. The same year DOJ prosecuted 125 total human trafficking cases (including sex trafficking of minors) and convicted 70.[1]
  • In 2011, the combined number of federal trafficking convictions—including cases involving forced labor, sex trafficking of adults, and sex trafficking of minors—totaled 151, compared to 141 in 2010.[2]
  • Chart: Sex trafficking victims by raceOf confirmed labor trafficking victims, 62 percent were age 25 or older, compared to 13 percent of confirmed sex trafficking victims.[3]
  • Of confirmed sex trafficking victims whose race was known, 26 percent were white and 40 percent were black. Of confirmed labor trafficking victims, 56 percent were Hispanic and 15 percent were Asian.[4]
  • In 2011, 40 Department of Justice-led task forces reported over 900 investigations that involved more than 1,350 suspects in cases possibly involving human trafficking.[5]Chart: Labor trafficking victims by race
  • By September 2012, all states except Wyoming had enacted anti-trafficking legislation.[6]
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported investigating 722 cases possibly involving human trafficking.[7]
  • Approximately 8 in 10 of the suspected incidents of human trafficking investigated by federally funded task forces were classified as sex trafficking, and about 1 in 10 incidents were classified as labor trafficking.[8]Chart: Sex trafficking by type of allegation
  • Between January 2008 and June 2010, 2,515 trafficking incidents were investigated by federally funded task forces. Of these incidents, 82 percent involved sex trafficking allegations, of which, nearly one-half (48 percent) involved allegations of adult prostitution and 40 percent prostitution or sexual exploitation of a child.[9]
  • Most confirmed sex trafficking victims in cases investigated by federally funded task forces were female (94 percent). Of the 63 confirmed labor trafficking victims, 32 percent were male and 68 percent were female.[10]
  • Four-fifths (83 percent) of victims in confirmed sex trafficking incidents were identified as U.S. citizens, while 67 percent of labor trafficking victims were classified as undocumented aliens and 28 percent as qualified aliens.[11]Chart: Sex of confirmed labor trafficking victims
  • Among trafficking incidents opened for at least one year by federally funded task forces, 30 percent were confirmed to be human trafficking, 38 percent confirmed not to be human trafficking, and the remaining incidents were still open at the end of the study period.[12]
  • The confirmed human trafficking cases open for at least a year by federally funded task forces led to 144 known arrests.[13]
  • Task forces may have entered multiple types of human trafficking per incident. Among the incidents described in this report, up to six different types of trafficking were identified per incident, although most (77 percent) incidents involved allegations of one type of human trafficking.[14]
  • Nine percent of incidents involved allegations of an unknown human trafficking type or allegations such as purchasing of mail-order brides, child selling, and unspecified Internet solicitations that could not be defined as either labor or sex trafficking.[15]
  • Eighty-seven victims identified in confirmed human trafficking incidents by federally funded task forces open for at least a year were described as undocumented or qualified aliens. Of these foreign victims, 21 received T-visas, while 46 visa applications were still pending or had unknown status.[16]


  1. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report 2012, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, 2012), 361, accessed October 15, 2012, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/192598.pdf.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Duren Banks and Tracey Kyckelhahn, Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010, 1, (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 2011), 1, accessed October 12, 2012, http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cshti0810.pdf.
  4. Ibid., calculated from data on p. 1.
  5. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report 2012, 361.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Banks and Kyckelhahn, Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 1.
  9. Ibid., 3.
  10. Ibid., 6.
  11. Ibid., 1.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid., 3.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid., 9.