Forum on Crime and Society

Special Issue - Researching Hidden Populations: Approaches to and Methodologies for Generating Data on Trafficking in Persons

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This issue of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime journal Forum on Crime and Society focuses on research related to trafficking in persons. It contains articles by a range of researchers and academics with experience in identifying 'hidden populations' such as trafficking victims. The articles present research methods and approaches that have been used with success to uncover 'hidden populations' in different contexts in the past. It is hoped that this edition of the Forum will stimulate the generation of more sound data on the different aspects of trafficking in persons worldwide.



Counting labour trafficking activities: an empirical attempt at standardized measurement

Research on human trafficking faces many challenges, one of which is the lack of consistent measurement. Although there have been efforts throughout the world to collect primary data, researchers have not come close to finding a common set of measures that can be applied consistently in counting trafficking activities or victimization experiences. The development of a common data-collection instrument, especially one that is appealing to researchers in different countries, is no easy task. The authors present one such example in this article, for all to comment on and improve. This instrument, created a few years ago in an empirical study on labour trafficking in the United States of America, is intended for use in large-scale surveys by persons engaged in research or gathering data for estimating prevalence. The instrument has received excellent empirical validation, including item response analysis, and has been adopted in a few other studies. While the instrument is still in need of improvement, the authors would like to publicize their efforts so that others may draw lessons from and build upon what has been accomplished. Although individual circumstances may vary, human trafficking shares sufficient commonalities to allow standardized measurement. A common instrument is a crucial step towards meaningful international or cross-regional comparison, which is sorely missing in the current policy discourse on human trafficking.


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