ArticlePDF Available

Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?


Abstract and Figures

This paper investigates the impact of legalized prostitution on human trafficking inflows. According to economic theory, there are two opposing effects of unknown magnitude. The scale effect of legalized prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market, increasing human trafficking, while the substitution effect reduces demand for trafficked women as legal prostitutes are favored over trafficked ones. Our empirical analysis for a cross-section of up to 150 countries shows that the scale effect dominates the substitution effect. On average, countries where prostitution is legal experience larger reported human trafficking inflows.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Electronic copy available at:
Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?
Published in:
World Development, 41 (1), 2013, pp. 67-82
German Institute for Economic Research, Berlin, Germany
University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK
Department of Development and Security, Mohrenstrasse 58, 10117 Berlin, Germany, Telephone: +49 (0)30
89 789 307, Fax: +49 (0)30 89 789 108, Email:
Alfred-Weber-Institute for Economics, Bergheimer Strasse 58, 69115 Heidelberg, Germany, University of
Goettingen, Germany, CESifo, Germany, IZA, Germany, and KOF Swiss Economic Institute, Switzerland,
Telephone: +49 (0)551 39 10614, E-mail:
Department of Geography and Environment, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK, Telephone: +44
(0)207 955 7598, Fax: +44 (0)207 955 7412, Email: (corresponding author).
Electronic copy available at:
This paper investigates the impact of legalized prostitution on human trafficking inflows.
According to economic theory, there are two opposing effects of unknown magnitude. The
scale effect of legalized prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market,
increasing human trafficking, while the substitution effect reduces demand for trafficked
women as legal prostitutes are favored over trafficked ones. Our empirical analysis for a
cross-section of up to 150 countries shows that the scale effect dominates the substitution
effect. On average, countries where prostitution is legal experience larger reported human
trafficking inflows.
Keywords: human trafficking; prostitution; crime; scale effect; substitution effect; global
Much recent scholarly attention has focused on the effect of globalization on human rights
(Bjørnskov, 2008; de Soysa & Vadlamannati, 2011) and women’s rights in particular (Cho,
2011; Potrafke & Ursprung, 2012). Yet, one important, and largely neglected, aspect of
globalization with direct human rights implications is the increased trafficking of human
beings (Cho and Vadlamannati, 2012; Potrafke, 2011), one of the dark sides of globalization.
Similarly, globalization scholars with their emphasis on the apparent loss of national
sovereignty often neglect the impact that domestic policies crafted at the country level can
still exert on aspects of globalization. This article analyzes how one important domestic
policy choice the legal status of prostitution affects the incidence of human trafficking
inflows to countries.
Most victims of international human trafficking are women and girls. The vast
majority end up being sexually exploited through prostitution (United Nations Office of
Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 2006). Many authors therefore believe that trafficking is caused
by prostitution and combating prostitution with the force of the law would reduce trafficking
(Outshoorn, 2005). For example, Hughes (2000) maintains that “evidence seems to show that
legalized sex industries actually result in increased trafficking to meet the demand for women
to be used in the legal sex industries” (p. 651). Farley (2009) suggests that “wherever
prostitution is legalized, trafficking to sex industry marketplaces in that region increases” (p.
In its Trafficking in Persons report, the U.S. State Department (2007) states as the
official U.S. Government position “that prostitution is inherently harmful and dehumanizing
and fuels trafficking in persons” (p. 27). The idea that combating human trafficking requires
combating prostitution is, in fact, anything but new. As Outshoorn (2005, p. 142) points out,
the UN International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons from 1949 had
already called on all states to suppress prostitution.
See Limoncelli (2010) for a
comprehensive historical overview.
Others disagree. They argue that the legalization of prostitution will improve working
and safety conditions for sex workers, allowing sex businesses to recruit among domestic
women who choose prostitution as their free choice of occupation. This, in turn, makes
resorting to trafficked women less attractive (Bureau of the Dutch National Rapporteur on
Trafficking, 2005; Segrave, 2009). While those who call for combating prostitution with the
force of the law typically subscribe to the belief that prostitution is almost always forced and
rarely truly voluntary (Farley, 2009), the view that the legalization of prostitution may reduce
trafficking is typically held by those who believe that the choice to sell one’s sexual services
for money need not always be forced, but can be a voluntary occupational choice. See
Limoncelli (2009) who discusses both sides of this debate.
In this article, we argue that theoretically the legalization of prostitution has two
contradictory effects on the incidence of trafficking, a substitution effect away from
trafficking and a scale effect increasing trafficking. Which of these effects dominate in reality,
and whether legalization is therefore likely to increase or decrease trafficking, is an empirical
question. The extant qualitative literature contains many strongly held views and beliefs,
sometimes based on anecdotal evidence, but little in terms of systematic and rigorous
research. We know of only two quantitative studies which have tried to answer this empirical
In their main estimations, Akee, Bedi, Basu and Chau (2010a) find that prostitution
laws have no effect on whether there is any reported incidence of trafficking between two
country pairs in a global cross-sectional dyad country sample. They do find a negative effect
of legalized prostitution on human trafficking in two of their three sets of instrumental
variable estimations (prostitution law is not the variable instrumented for), but this result is
due to sample selection effects since the inclusion of settler mortality rates as an instrument
leads to the loss of almost half of their observations, most likely in a non-random way.
Jakobsson and Kotsadam (2011), on the other hand, find a positive effect of legalized
prostitution on human trafficking in a cross-sectional monadic dataset of 31 European
Our empirical analysis differs from these existing studies. Jakobsson and Kotsadam’s
(2011) study is similar to ours in that we also analyze human trafficking at the monadic
country level. However, in contrast to their study, we use a global sample consisting of up to
150 countries. European countries are only a sub-sample of relevant destination countries for
human trafficking. Not only are there other developed target countries such as the United
States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, but also several non-OECD countries such
as China, Pakistan, Turkey, Thailand and some Arab countries, all of which are important
destination countries as well. This begs the question whether Jakobsson and Kotsadam’s
(2011) finding can be generalized or is confined to Europe.
Despite our sample being global like Akee et al.’s (2010a) study, we do not attempt to
estimate the incidence of trafficking at the bilateral (dyadic) country level like they do.
Dyadic studies only outperform monadic studies such as ours if the data quality at the dyadic
level is sufficiently high. We contend that this does not hold for human trafficking. As will be
explained further below, even at the monadic level the quality of data is relatively low. It is
much worse at the bilateral level. With this in mind, one price that Akee et al. (2010a) pay for
moving to the dyadic level is the loss of all information on the intensity of trafficking – their
dependent variable is a dichotomous one, i.e., whether trafficking between a country pair
exists or not. This loss of information may well represent one reason why Akee et al. (2010a)
find no effect of prostitution laws on human trafficking in their main estimations.
The remainder of this article is structured as follows. In section 2, we discuss what
economic theory can tell us about the effects of legalizing prostitution on the incidence of
human trafficking. Contrary to Jakobsson and Kotsadam (2011), who suggest an
unambiguously positive effect, we show that the effect is theoretically indeterminate because
the substitution effect and the scale effect work in opposite directions. Therefore, being an
essentially empirical question, we are keen to construct a global dataset. We exploit a measure
of the reported intensity of human trafficking flows into the country under observation on a
scale of 0 to 5. This measure and our research design are described in section 3, while section
4 presents the results. We find that countries with legalized prostitution have a statistically
significantly larger reported incidence of human trafficking inflows. This holds true
regardless of the model we use to estimate the equations and the variables we control for in
the analysis. Also, the main finding is not dominated by trafficking to a particular region of
the world.
In this section, we discuss what economic theory suggests regarding the effect of the
legalization of prostitution on trafficking. Akee et al. (2010a) provide an excellent game-
theoretic analysis on the effects of anti-trafficking law enforcement in source and destination
countries between such country pairs. However, their analysis tells us nothing about the effect
of the legalization of prostitution in itself. This is because contrary to Akee et al.’s (2010a)
implicit underlying assumption, the legalization of prostitution is not equal to laxer
enforcement of anti-trafficking laws and, conversely, the fact that prostitution is illegal does
not imply stricter anti-trafficking enforcement. Human trafficking always remains illegal even
if prostitution becomes legal. Moreover, by erroneously equating the legal status of
prostitution with different levels of law enforcement with respect to human trafficking, Akee
et al. (2010a) overlook other demand and supply effects that the legalization of prostitution
may have on human trafficking. Jakobsson and Kotsadam’s (2011) paper is closer to our
theoretical analysis in this regard as they directly focus on the supply and demand effects of
legalizing prostitution. However, they only take into account the scale effect, i.e., the
expansion of prostitution markets after legalization. As we will show below, there is an
opposing substitution effect replacing illegal, forced prostitution with voluntary, legal
prostitution, making the overall effect indeterminate.
Our discussion is gender-neutral, referring to individuals, persons and prostitutes in
general, rather than female prostitutes. This is because the theoretical arguments, in principle,
equally apply to boys and, possibly, men, also trafficked into the sex industry. We are, of
course, under no illusion that the overwhelming majority of individuals affected by trafficking
are in fact girls and women.
A theoretical analysis of the effect of the legality of prostitution on international
human trafficking is rendered complicated by the fact that, as Edlund and Korn (2002) point
out, not all prostitution is the same. Street prostitution differs from prostitution in brothels,
bars and clubs, which also differs from prostitution offered by call girls (and boys) and escort
agencies. Differences include, but are not limited to, the types of services rendered, numbers
of clients served, types of clients served, sizes of payments and also the share of illegally
trafficked prostitutes working in each market segment. For simplicity, we will avoid such
complications by assuming that there is one single market for prostitution.
Let us assume a situation in which prostitution is entirely illegal in a country and those
engaging in prostitution – i.e., sex workers, their pimps and clients – are prosecuted, if
caught. As with other illegal markets, e.g., the market for classified drugs or endangered
species, illegality does not eradicate the market, given that there is strong demand from clients
on the one hand, and the willingness to supply prostitution services on the other hand.
equilibrium quantity of prostitution will be a function of supply and demand, just as in any
other market. A commonly recognized stylized fact is that despite working conditions that
many would regard as exploitative, wages earned by prostitutes tend to be high relative to
their human capital endowments such as education and skills,
and therefore relative to the
wages they could earn outside prostitution.
This has been explained by factors such as
compensation for social stigma
and exclusion, risky and unattractive working conditions, and
forgone marriage benefits (Cameron, 2002; Edlund & Korn, 2002; Giusta, Di Tommaso &
Strøm, 2009). Another reason, we suggest, is the compensation for allowing random and often
previously unknown clients to infiltrate private and intimate spheres. Importantly, there will
be a wage premium, all other things being equal, if prostitution is illegal compared to a
situation in which prostitution is legal, since sex workers (and their pimps) need to be
additionally compensated for the risk of prosecution. This is similar to the price premium for
banned goods like drugs (Miron & Zwiebel, 1991; Miron, 2003).
What will be the effect of legalizing prostitution on the demand, supply, and thus
equilibrium quantity of prostitution? Starting with the demand effect, some clients will be
deterred from consuming commercial sex services if prostitution is illegal and they expect that
there is a reasonable probability of being prosecuted, as this raises the costs of engaging in
such activities. Legalizing prostitution will therefore almost invariably increase demand for
Concerning supply, legalizing prostitution will induce some potential sex
workers (or their pimps) to enter the market, namely those who were deterred from offering
such services by the threat of prosecution and for whom the pay premium that arose from the
illegality of prostitution represented insufficient compensation i.e., the risk of prosecution
creates costs that are not easily expressed in monetary terms and can therefore not be
compensated for with a higher wage. One might conjecture that supply could also decrease
given that the state will want to raise taxes from legalized prostitution, whereas illegal
prostitution, by definition, does not entail payment of taxes. However, this is not the case.
Those unwilling or unable to operate legally (including meeting the legal obligation to pay
taxes), can continue to operate illegally. Before, their business was illegal because prostitution
was illegal; now their business is illegal due to their tax evasion in the shadow economy.
Supply could only decrease under the assumption that the state prosecutes tax evasion more
vigorously than it prosecuted illegal prostitution before, which, we believe, will not be the
As is the case with demand, supply will therefore increase as well. With demand and
supply both increasing, the equilibrium quantity of prostitution will be higher in the legalized
regime compared to the situation where prostitution is illegal.
If the scale of prostitution becomes larger once it is rendered legal, will the incidence
of human trafficking also increase? The increased equilibrium quantity of prostitution will, for
a constant share of trafficked prostitutes among all prostitutes, exert an increasing scale effect
on the incidence of international trafficking for prostitution purposes.
This is the effect
Jakobsson and Kotsadam (2011) take into account. It is only part of the whole story, however.
The full answer to the question depends on what happens to the composition of prostitutes and
whether any substitution effect away from trafficked prostitutes (towards domestic prostitutes
or foreign prostitutes legally residing and working in the country) is stronger than the scale
effect. Under conditions of illegality, a certain share of prostitutes will consist of trafficked
individuals, given the difficulties in recruiting individuals willing to voluntarily work in such
an illegal market.
This share of trafficked prostitutes is likely to fall after legalization. Sex
businesses wishing to take advantage of the legality of prostitution (instead of remaining
illegal) would want to recruit more national citizens or foreigners legally residing with a work
permit in the country since employing trafficked foreign prostitutes (or, for that matter,
illegally residing foreign prostitutes that were not trafficked) endangers their newly achieved
legal status.
However, the legalization of prostitution will not reduce the share of trafficked
prostitutes to zero. First, there may be insufficient supply among domestic or legally residing
foreign individuals, given the risky and unattractive nature of prostitution which persists even
after legalization. Second, trafficked individuals are significantly more vulnerable and
exposed to the demands of their pimps, which makes their continued employment attractive to
some extent. For example, a greater portion of their earnings can be extracted, making their
pimps’ business more lucrative than operating with legal prostitutes. Third, clients might have
preferences for “exotic” sex workers from geographically remote places whose nationals are
unlikely to have legal rights to reside in the country.
There is consequently a substitution effect away from illegally trafficked prostitutes
(as well as illegally residing non-trafficked prostitutes) to legally residing prostitutes, but just
how strong this substitution effect is remains an empirical matter. In sum, the effect of
legalization of prostitution on the international trafficking of human beings is theoretically
indeterminate as the two effects, with unknown magnitudes, work in opposite directions. We
therefore now turn to our empirical analysis to shed light on whether, on average, the
substitution effect or the scale (quantity) effect dominates.
(a) Data on human trafficking and prostitution laws
One of the biggest challenges of doing research on human trafficking is the scarcity of reliable
and comparable data. Human trafficking is a clandestine, criminal activity, with those being
trafficked and involved in such activities being part of ‘hidden populations’ (Tyldum &
Brunovskis, 2005). Therefore, the true number of human trafficking victims is unknown
(Belser, de Cock & Mehran, 2005). Currently, existing data available across countries
although reflecting fragmented information only – can be divided into three categories:
characteristics of victims, trafficking routes, and country reports (Kangaspunta, 2003).
Extensive data on victims have been collected by the International Organization for Migration
(IOM) and utilized for micro-analyses on the characteristics of human trafficking (Di
Tommaso, Shima, Strøm & Bettio, 2009; Mahmoud & Trebesch, 2010). The reports by the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC, 2006, 2009), the US Department of
State (2001-2011) and the Protection Project (2002) provide information on trafficking routes;
some of them being utilized in recent gravity analyses on human trafficking (Akee et al.,
2010a, b).
Among the currently available sources, the aforementioned Report on Trafficking in
Persons: Global Patterns (UNODC, 2006) has also collected and presented data on incidences
of human trafficking at the country level; therefore the utilization of this report best serves the
purpose of our study. The UNODC Report provides cross-country information on the reported
incidence of human trafficking in 161 countries, measuring trafficking flows on a six-point
scale. To the best of our knowledge, this report is the only source with comparable data across
countries and covering most countries in the world, which also differentiates between the
intensity levels of human trafficking inflows. Our empirical analysis is based on the UNODC
data given that we want to test the impact of prostitution laws on the degree of human
Our dependent variable (Trafficking) captures the incidence of human trafficking into
a country, taken from the Index on Incidence of Reporting of Destination Countries provided
by the UNODC Report. The Index has ordinal scores ranging from 0 to 5; 0 indicates no
reported inflow of human trafficking and 5 implies very high reported inflows (see appendix
A for more details). The Index was constructed based on the Global Programme against
Trafficking in Human Beings (GPAT) Database, which includes reviews on publications by
113 institutions reporting incidences of human trafficking in 161 countries over the 1996-
2003 period. Cases reported by these institutions were collected in the GPAT Trafficking
Database and used to determine the scores on the incidence of human trafficking in countries
of destination, origin and transit, respectively. The 113 institutions represent major
informational sources on human trafficking and consist of international organizations (32%),
governmental institutions (27%), research institutes (18%), NGOs (18%) and the media (5%)
(UNODC, 2006, p. 112). The Index has some limitations. First, it uses cross-sectional
aggregated information from the collection period of 1996-2003 therefore a panel analysis
controlling for unobserved country and time effects is not possible. Second, the geographical
distribution of the source institutions is biased towards Western Europe (29%) and North
America (18%),
suggesting that the data collected might lead to an overestimation of human
trafficking incidences in these regions relative to other regions due to reporting biases. In
absolute terms, such reporting biases are likely to underestimate the incidence of trafficking in
countries outside Western Europe and North America. We try to reduce the problem by
controlling for regional effects in our estimation. The countries in each category (score) of the
index are listed in appendix B. The main limitation of the UNODC data however is that
reporting will arguably depend on the quality of institutions, judicial and police effectiveness,
in particular, but also on how aware the international community is about trafficking problems
in a particular country. However, a fair share of the information the UNODC data covers
comes from research institutes (18%), NGOs (18%), and the media (5%), mitigating the
problem of using official sources – the problem that other existing data such as crime statistics
confront more severely.
Our dependent variable thus does not reflect actual trafficking flows, and needs to be
interpreted cautiously.
Rather than being interested in actual absolute numbers, our analysis
focuses on the effect of legal prostitution on trafficking flows. To the extent that – controlling
for the substantial number of variables we employ below – the degree of distortions in
reported trafficking intensities is not correlated with whether or not prostitution is legal, the
low quality of data will not bias our coefficient estimates, but will only make it less likely the
coefficients are statistically significant. While probably not sharply distinguishing between
different degrees of the crime, the indicator is arguably positively correlated with actual cases
of trafficking, so the index remains meaningful. To mitigate the problem that the ordered
categories of our dependent variable may not capture true differences among destination
countries, we also constructed a binary dependent variable which is one for medium, high,
and very high inflows, and estimated the regression with probit rather than ordered probit.
Our results are unchanged. Still, the results should be interpreted with caution.
Our main independent variable of interest is Legalized Prostitution, which indicates
the legal status of prostitution. Following Outshoorn’s (2004) typology on prostitution
regimes, we construct two dummy variables indicating: 1) whether or not prostitution is
legally allowed,
being 1 in this case and 0 otherwise; 2) whether or not 3
involvement (such as brothel operation) is additionally legally allowed, being 1 in the case
that brothels/pimping are legal and 0 otherwise.
In our analysis, we focus on the effects of
the former – legalized prostitution – while the latter is employed to test whether the additional
legality of brothels creates an additional effect. The source data cover annual variations in
prostitution legislation in each country from 1995
to 2003, but there is very little change
over time in most countries and variance in the Legalized Prostitution variable is dominated
by cross-country variation. The coding is based on information from the Country Report on
Human Rights Practice (US Department of State, 1999-2008) and country reports on progress
in women’s rights submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against
Women (CEDAW Committee).
Appendix C shows the distribution of the legal status of
prostitution in the world.
(b) Estimation strategy
Our regressions are based on cross-section data, with reported inflows of human trafficking
referring to the 1996-2003 period. We include as many countries as possible given the
availability of data for the dependent and the Legalized Prostitution variables. We therefore
impute the missing data on the control variables. Specifically, we impute continuous control
variables using multivariate normal regression, with 20 imputations, while the democracy
dummy is imputed with logistic regression.
As will be shown in table 1, our results do not
depend on whether or not we impute these data prior to estimation. While striving to include
all relevant country observations, we nevertheless exclude low-income countries from the
sample, as defined by the World Bank (2010). Trafficking for the purpose of sexual
exploitation requires that clients in a potential destination country have sufficient purchasing
power to pay for such services, as well as requiring domestic supply to be somewhat
constrained. Neither of these pre-conditions is likely to hold in low-income countries:
domestic clients are too poor to be attractive clients for potential traffickers and the
widespread poverty among the domestic population ensures that there is no shortage of
domestic supply. Low-income countries are therefore arguably outside the relevant sample
Our estimation equations take the following form:
, (1)
where represents the reported degree of human trafficking inflows in country , and
is our dummy variables for whether or not prostitution is legal. is the
vector of explanatory variables, and is the idiosyncratic error term. Given the cross-
sectional nature of our dataset, we cannot control for unobserved country heterogeneity by
including country fixed effects. Nor can we find a suitable and valid instrument that would be
partially correlated with our Legalized Prostitution variable, but uncorrelated with unobserved
country heterogeneity. To mitigate any bias this might introduce, and in order to capture at
least some heterogeneity across groups of countries, we include regional fixed effects instead,
denoted as .
In all regressions, we use robust standard errors. The dependent
variable is categorical and ordinal. We therefore use ordered probit to estimate the main
equations; the results are robust toward using ordered logit instead.
Our baseline estimation accounts for the most important determinants of human
trafficking flows, according to the previous literature (Akee et al., 2010a, b; Cho, 2011, 2012;
Jakobsson & Kotsadam, 2011). We include measures of (log) per capita income and (log)
population size from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators (2010) as control
variables, since richer and more populous countries should experience a higher incidence of
human trafficking inflows. In addition, we include a rule of law indicator from the World
Bank Governance Indicators (Kaufmann, Kray & Mastruzzi, 2009), ranging from -2.5 to 2.5,
with higher values corresponding to better outcomes. We expect a better rule of law to reduce
trafficking flows due to traffickers facing a higher risk of prosecution.
An index indicating
democratic governments is taken from Cheibub, Ghandi & Vreeland (2010). The dummy is
coded as 1 if multiple parties are legally allowed and exist outside the regime front, as well as
if the selection of the executive and the legislature involves an either direct or indirect
mandate from an electorate (Cheibub et al., 2010). All other things being equal, democracies
tend to have more open borders, which lowers the risk of detection for traffickers. We include
the share of Catholics living in a country in order to control for cultural effects.
Cho (2012)
has shown that countries with larger shares of Catholics have smaller human trafficking
inflows. As religiosity reduces sexual tolerance, it arguably reduces demand for prostitution
services and thus implies less trafficking, all else equal (Saguy, 1999). The control variables
refer to the year 1995, so they precede the dependent variable, with the exception of the rule
of law indicator, which is from 1998.
Finally, we include the (logged) share of pre-existing
migrants in a country because potential trafficking victims might be attracted by the existence
of pre-existing migrant networks (Mahmoud & Trebesch, 2010). Data are taken from the
UNDP Human Development Report (2010) and are only available for 1990 and 2005. We
take the year 1990 to avoid problems with endogeneity.
Appendix D provides more
information on the sources and definitions of these data, while appendix E reports descriptive
As argued in section 2, the effect of legalized prostitution on trafficking inflows is
theoretically indeterminate due to opposing scale and substitution effects. We now analyze
which effect dominates in our global sample of countries. Column 1 of table 1 shows the basic
results with the sample excluding low-income countries. Data for six countries were
incomplete and are thus imputed.
Countries where prostitution is legal experience a larger
reported incidence of human trafficking inflows, with the estimated coefficient statistically
distinguishable from zero at the five percent level. Regarding the control variables, reported
trafficking declines with better rule of law, at the ten percent level of significance. Countries
with higher GDP per capita, larger populations, larger stocks of pre-existing migrants, and a
democratic political regime experience a larger reported incidence of trafficking inflows, with
all of these results being statistically significant at the five percent level. The share of
Catholics is marginally insignificant, with a negative coefficient. The regional dummies are
jointly significant at the five percent level. As can be seen, relative to the omitted reference
category of Western Europe and other industrialized countries, all regional dummies, with the
exception of East Asia, have negative coefficients. However, only the dummies for
developing Europe and Latin America are significant at conventional levels.
Column 2 includes a dummy that indicates whether or not third-party involvement in
prostitution is legal. It takes the value of one if brothel operation or pimping is legal and zero
otherwise (i.e., when prostitution is illegal or only self-employed prostitution is legal). The
coefficient of the dummy is marginally insignificant, while the dummy for legal prostitution
in general remains almost unchanged. This might imply that legalization of prostitution, per
se, is more important in explaining human trafficking than the type of legalization, i.e.,
whether brothel operations or pimping are also allowed. This suggests that our assumption of
a single prostitution market is justified. Note however that the dummy for legal third-party
involvement is different from the legal prostitution dummy in only 10 countries. If we omit
the legal prostitution dummy, the dummy indicating the legality of brothels and pimping is
significant at the ten percent level (column 3).
In column 4 we include low-income countries, while column 5 exclusively focuses on
high-income countries instead.
As can be seen, the effect of legal prostitution is no longer
significant when low-income countries are included. As we have argued in the previous
section, low-income countries are largely irrelevant for international traffickers and the
inclusion of these countries in the sample injects so much noise into the estimations as to
render the identification of a significant effect of the prostitution variable more difficult. In
the high-income country sample, the coefficient of legal prostitution is significant at the ten
percent level, with a larger coefficient, indicating that the effect of legalized prostitution,
compared to middle-income countries, is stronger in high-income countries.
The significant
coefficient in this sample is consistent with Jakobsson and Kotsadam’s (2011) results for the
European Union. Columns 6-8 illustrate changes in the method of estimation to test for
robustness. Column 6 uses OLS instead of ordered probit. Finally, we report results without
imputing our data in column 7 (with ordered probit) and column 8 (with OLS). For the most
part, the results remain unchanged.
The substantive effects of the statistically significant variables are also important.
When calculating these effects for the second highest level of the dependent variable (i.e., a
value of 4), the results in column 7 imply that an increase in the rule of law by one standard
deviation centered around the mean reduces the baseline probability of being in this second
highest category (which is 12.1 percent) by 1.8 percentage points. A one standard deviation
increase in the share of Catholics among the population reduces the probability by almost 5
percentage points, while a corresponding increase in per capita GDP increases the probability
by 2.5 percentage points. The corresponding number for both population size and the stock of
migrants is around 1.3 percentage points. Democracies have a 13.4 percentage points higher
probability of receiving high reported inflows. When prostitution is legal the probability to be
in this second highest category is more than 12.8 percentage points higher. For comparison,
the probability of being in the lowest category of receiving no reported inflow of human
trafficking is 5.3 percentage points lower in countries with legal prostitution. The
corresponding values for the other categories are -10 (at a value of 1), -8.6 (value of 2), +8.6
(value of 3), and +1.2 (value of 5) percentage points.
Figure 1 shows the partial leverage plot based on the linear OLS model of column 8.
While OLS is typically not the estimator of choice for strictly positive ordered categorical
dependent variables (not least because it produces negative predicted values), such a plot
allows us to check whether our results for the legal status of prostitution appear to be driven
by a few influential outliers. Figure 1 shows that this is not the case.
– Insert Figure 1 here –
We perform two important robustness tests. In table 2 we estimate regional jackknife
analyses, in which all countries of one particular region are dropped from the analysis one at a
time in order to test whether the results are driven by the presence of observations from a
specific region in the sample. The results show that none of the regions substantially drives
the coefficient of prostitution laws. The individual exclusion of each region leaves the
coefficient significant at the ten percent level at least.
Next we turn to the robustness of our results to the choice of control variables. As the
theory and empirics of human trafficking flows have only begun to be seriously addressed
recently, there is still considerable uncertainty over which explanatory variables to include
among its determinants. To examine the sensitivity of the results reported above, we therefore
employ (variants of) the extreme bounds analysis (EBA), as proposed by Leamer (1983) and
Levine and Renelt (1992), as our second test for robustness.
EBA enables us to examine
whether our main result that countries with legal prostitution experience a larger reported
inflow of human trafficking is indeed robust, independent of which additional variables are
also included in the set of control variables.
To conduct an EBA, we estimate equations of the following form:
, (2)
where again measures reported human trafficking flows to country i; M is a vector
of “commonly accepted” explanatory variables and F is a vector containing the variables of
interest (i.e., the legal prostitution dummy). The vector Z contains up to three possible
additional explanatory variables (as in Levine & Renelt, 1992), which, according to existing
literature, might be causally related to the dependent variable. The error term is v.
The EBA-test for a variable in F states that if the lower extreme bound for β
— i.e.,
the lowest value for β
minus two standard deviations — is negative, while the upper extreme
bound for β
i.e., the highest value for β
plus two standard deviations is positive, the
variable F is not robustly related to human trafficking flows. Sala-i-Martin (1997) argues that
this criterion is far too restrictive for any variable to pass the test. If the distribution of the
parameter of interest has both positive and negative support, then a researcher is bound to find
at least one regression model for which the estimated coefficient changes sign if enough
regressions are run. Consequently, not only do we report the extreme bounds, but also the
percentage of the regressions in which the coefficient of the variable F is statistically different
from zero at the five percent level.
Moreover, instead of merely analyzing the extreme bounds of the estimates for the
coefficient of a particular variable, we follow Sala-i-Martin’s (1997) recommended procedure
and analyze the entire distribution. Accordingly, we also report the unweighted parameter
estimate of β
and its standard error, as well as the unweighted cumulative distribution
function, CDF(0).
The latter represents the proportion of the cumulative distribution
function lying on each side of zero. CDF(0) indicates the larger of the areas under the density
function (either above or below zero). Therefore, CDF(0) always lies between 0.5 and 1.0.
The vector M contains the same variables as the regressions in the tables above.
Specifically, we focus on the specification shown in column 1 of table 1, again using ordered
probit with robust standard errors, and again imputing the explanatory variables.
To test for
the robustness of our results we have collected a total of 27 additional variables which could
potentially influence the level of human trafficking flows and are potentially related to the
effect of prostitution laws.
Our choice of variables derives from an extensive review of the existing literature
(Akee et al., 2010a, b; Cameroon & Newman, 2008; Cho, 2011, 2012; Danailova-Trainor &
Belser, 2006; Jakobsson & Kotsadam, 2011; Mahmoud & Trebesch, 2011; and Potrafke,
2011). It covers four important aspects of potential determinants of human trafficking, namely
international movement of people, societal vulnerability to human trafficking, crime, and
policies combating such crime (Cho, 2012). Besides the 14 variables used for the baseline
estimations, 27 additional variables are listed below. We use the (logged) number of incoming
tourists to measure short-term flows of human movement across borders. We also include two
measures of a country’s visa restrictions, indicating the number of countries whose citizens
are allowed to enter the country without a visa.
The share of a country’s population living in
cities is included because urbanization may create demand for cheap services in, for example,
household work and construction which trafficking victims can potentially provide, while
trade (as a percentage of GDP) captures flows of goods and services which may impact on
human movements. We include indices measuring the existence of laws for the prosecution of
perpetrators engaged in human trafficking, the protection of victims, and the prevention of
human trafficking (taken from Cho et al., 2011) to check whether the legal status of
prostitution spuriously picks up the effect of policies aimed at combating human trafficking.
The share of right-wing governments in power over the 1990-95 period is included, as right-
wing governments can reasonably be expected to take a tougher stance on illegal migration,
an important source of human trafficking inflows. Unemployment rates among men and
women and employment in the agricultural sector (as a percentage of total employment) are
also included because they have the potential to capture the demand for cheap and possibly
exploitative labor in society outside the market for prostitution. Literacy is included because a
higher level of education can lead to a higher level of public awareness towards human
trafficking. Mortality rates of children under five is a proxy for the basic living conditions in a
country, a pulling factor of international migration. The shares of Muslims and, respectively,
Protestants in the population are included to account for potentially varying moral values, so
the two groups might have different propensities to consume the services of trafficked persons
(Potrafke, 2011). We include an index measuring a country’s media freedom, taken from
Freedom House (2010). Arguably, a freer media is more likely to report on delicate issues
such as human trafficking, making it more likely that trafficking flows will be reported.
Dummies for English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German speaking countries, as well
as dummies for British, Socialist, French, German, and Scandinavian legal origin are included
to account for some additional group heterogeneity among countries. All variables and their
sources are listed in appendix B.
The results for the EBA models are presented in table 3, based on 3,303 regressions
(with 116 observations each). Following Sala-i-Martin, we use a CDF(0) value of 0.90 as the
threshold above which we consider variables to be robust. As can be seen, the results mirror
those of table 1 above. With the exception of four of the regional dummies, all variables used
for the baseline estimations pass the robustness criterion. The effect of the legal prostitution
dummy is clearly robust to the choice of explanatory variables, as indicated by a CDF(0) of
0.99. The dummy is significant at the five percent level (at least) in almost all of the 3,303
regressions run.
Our empirical findings so far indicate that the scale effects of the expansion of prostitution
markets after legalization dominate the substitution effects away from human trafficking.
However, our quantitative empirical analysis is cross-sectional. As pointed out already, this
means we cannot control for unobserved country heterogeneity. Also, while we have
established that the legalized status of prostitution is associated with a higher incidence of
trafficking inflows, a cross-sectional analysis cannot provide a conclusion as to whether
legalizing prostitution would result in increased trafficking after legalization. In order to
provide anecdotal evidence that our estimated effect of legalized prostitution is likely to
capture a causal rather than a spurious effect, we now briefly analyze three country case
studies, namely Sweden, Germany and Denmark. These three countries changed their
prostitution law during the 1996-2003 period our investigation covers, albeit in opposite
directions. Sweden prohibited prostitution in 1999, while Germany further legalized
prostitution by allowing third-party involvement in 2002. Denmark, where prostitution as a
main income source was previously illegal, decriminalized prostitution in 1999. Since then,
self-employed prostitution is legal but brothel operation is still forbidden in Denmark.
We have sufficient data for Germany to compare the number of trafficking victims in
the pre- and post-legalization period. For Sweden and Denmark, we lack such data. We
therefore compare the available data for Sweden after the prohibition of prostitution with data
for Denmark, where prostitution was legalized. Sweden and Denmark have similar levels of
economic and institutional development, and a similar geographic position, which, as our
quantitative analysis shows, are important determinants of human trafficking.
Sweden amended its prostitution law in 1999 by prohibiting all forms of commercial
sex and punishing the purchase of sex with a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of six
months. Prior to the amendment, Sweden allowed self-employed individual prostitution while
prohibiting brothel operation (Di Nicola et al., 2005). The amendment was introduced after
long debates over the root causes of prostitution in Swedish society, with the new law stating
that prostitution by nature is always exploitative, and that the purchase of sexual services
provided by women and girls amounts to discrimination against them (Ekberg, 2004).
Furthermore, this new law links prostitution to human trafficking and specifically states the
former as an alleged cause of the latter (Ekberg, 2004). Ekberg estimates based on various
cases reported to the Swedish Ministry of Industry, Employment, and Communications – that
the number of prostitutes in Sweden decreased rather substantially from 2,500 in 1999 to
1,500 in 2002, with street prostitution in particular decreasing by between 30-50% after the
prohibition of prostitution. At the same time, Ekberg points out that even though so-called
‘hidden prostitution’ via internet and escort services may have increased, it is generally
agreed that the prostitution market in Sweden contracted after prohibition, as a buyer now
risks facing criminal charges for purchasing sex (Di Nicola et al., 2005; Ekberg, 2004;
Jakobsson & Kotsadam, 2011). Such evidence of a shrinking market indicates that the
prohibition of prostitution in this particular case has a negative scale effect on prostitution
markets, as theory predicts.
However, whether or not human trafficking inflows have reduced after the prohibition
in Sweden is a trickier question to answer because of the lack of sufficient time-series data on
the number of victims. Di Nicola et al. (2005) provide annual estimates of human trafficking
victims for sexual exploitation in Sweden during the 2000-03 period, suggesting anywhere
between 200 to 600 victims per year. This would mean a share of trafficked individuals
among the estimated 1,500 prostitutes of between 13.3% and 40%. There are, however, no
available nationwide statistics on trafficking victims prior to the amendment in 1999 and
therefore, a direct comparison between the pre- and post-prohibition periods is impossible.
However, for the substitution effect to dominate the scale effect, as well as for the number of
trafficked prostitutes to have been higher after prostitution was rendered illegal, it would need
to be shown that the share of trafficked prostitutes was less than 8% at the minimum estimate,
or 24% at the maximum estimate of 2,500 prostitutes prior to 1999. A compositional shift
from 13.3% to 8% (minimum estimate) or from 40% to 24% (maximum estimate) is of course
possible, but would appear to require quite a large shift.
A comparison between Sweden and Denmark, a neighboring country with similar
socio-economic conditions yet reforming their prostitution laws in the opposite direction,
tentatively suggests that compositional differences across regimes legalizing and prohibiting
prostitution have been small. Since 1999, Denmark has allowed individual, self-employed
prostitution, while prohibiting brothel operation, representing the same level of legality in
prostitution as Sweden had before the 1999 reform. The ILO estimates the stock of human
trafficking victims in Denmark in 2004 at approximately 2,250, while the estimated number in
Sweden is about 500 (Global report data used in Danailova-Trainor and Belser, 2006).
implies that the number of human trafficking victims in Denmark is more than four times that
of Sweden, although the population size of Sweden (8.9 million) is about 40% larger than that
of Denmark (5.3 million). Importantly, the Global report also estimates the number of
prostitutes in Denmark about 6,000 to be three to four times larger than the number in
Sweden. This comparison thus tentatively suggests that the share of trafficked individuals
among all prostitutes is fairly similar in the two countries, despite one prohibiting and the
other permitting prostitution. This in turn, would suggest that compositional changes and thus
the substitution effect are likely to have been small.
Contrary to Sweden, Germany introduced a more liberal prostitution law in 2002.
Today, prostitution in Germany is regulated by law and regarded as a ‘regular job’ subject to
tax payment and retirement schemes (Di Nicola et al., 2005). Prior to 2002, Germany only
allowed individual, self-employed prostitution without third party involvement. Having a
liberal prostitution regime, Germany is known to have one of the largest prostitution markets
in Europe, with about 150,000 people working as prostitutes (Global report data used in
Danailova-Trainor and Belser, 2006). This means that the number of prostitutes in Germany is
more than 60 times that of Sweden, while having a population (82 million inhabitants) less
than 10 times larger. In terms of human trafficking victims, the ILO estimated the stock of
victims in Germany in 2004 to be approximately 32,800 – about 62 times more than in
Sweden (Danailova-Trainor & Belser, 2006). Again, the share of trafficked individuals among
all prostitutes appears to be quite similar in both countries, corroborating the view that any
compositional differences across prohibitionist and legalized prostitution regimes are likely to
be small. Additionally, Di Nicola et al. (2005) provide annual estimates of trafficking victims
used for sexual exploitation in Germany over the 1996-2003 period, which can shed some
light on the changing number of trafficked prostitutes. The estimates show that the number of
victims gradually declined between 1996/97, the first years of data collection, and 2001, when
the minimum estimate was 9,870 and the maximum 19,740.
However, this number
increased upon fully legalizing prostitution in 2002, as well as in 2003, rising to 11,080-
22,160 and 12,350-24,700, respectively.
This is consistent with our result from the
quantitative analysis indicating a positive correlation between the legal status of prostitution
and inward trafficking.
This paper has investigated the impact of legalized prostitution on inflows of human
trafficking. According to economic theory, there are two effects of unknown magnitude. The
scale effect of legalizing prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market and thus
an increase in human trafficking, while the substitution effect reduces demand for trafficked
prostitutes by favoring prostitutes who have legal residence in a country. Our quantitative
empirical analysis for a cross-section of up to 150 countries shows that the scale effect
dominates the substitution effect. On average, countries with legalized prostitution experience
a larger degree of reported human trafficking inflows. We have corroborated this quantitative
evidence with three brief case studies of Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Consistent with the
results from our quantitative analysis, the legalization of prostitution has led to substantial
scale effects in these cases. Both the cross-country comparisons among Sweden, Denmark
and Germany, with their different prostitution regimes, as well as the temporal comparison
within Germany before and after the further legalization of prostitution, suggest that any
compositional changes in the share of trafficked individuals among all prostitutes have been
small and the substitution effect has therefore been dominated by the scale effect. Naturally,
this qualitative evidence is also somewhat tentative as there is no “smoking gun” proving that
the scale effect dominates the substitution effect and that the legalization of prostitution
definitely increases inward trafficking flows. The problem here lies in the clandestine nature
of both the prostitution and trafficking markets, making it difficult, perhaps impossible, to
find hard evidence establishing this relationship. Our central finding, i.e., that countries with
legalized prostitution experience a larger reported incidence of trafficking inflows, is
therefore best regarded as being based on the most reliable existing data, but needs to be
subjected to future scrutiny. More research in this area is definitely warranted, but it will
require the collection of more reliable data to establish firmer conclusions.
The likely negative consequences of legalized prostitution on a country’s inflows of
human trafficking might be seen to support those who argue in favor of banning prostitution,
thereby reducing the flows of trafficking (e.g., Outshoorn, 2005). However, such a line of
argumentation overlooks potential benefits that the legalization of prostitution might have on
those employed in the industry. Working conditions could be substantially improved for
prostitutes at least those legally employed if prostitution is legalized. Prohibiting
prostitution also raises tricky “freedom of choice” issues concerning both the potential
suppliers and clients of prostitution services. A full evaluation of the costs and benefits, as
well as of the broader merits of prohibiting prostitution, is beyond the scope of the present
Akee, R, Bedi, A., Basu, A. K. & Chau, N. H. (2010a). Transnational Trafficking, Law
Enforcement and Victim Protection: A Middleman’s Perspective. mimeo. Cornell
University, United States.
Akee, R., Basu, A. K., Chau, N. H. & Khamis, M. (2010b). Ethnic Fragmentation, Conflict,
Displaced Persons and Human Trafficking: An empirical Analysis. In G. S. Epstein &
I. N. Gang (Eds.), Migration and Culture: Frontiers of Economics and Globalization,
Volume 8 (pp.691-716). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Batsyukova, S. (2007). Prostitution and Human Trafficking for sexual Exploitation. Gender
Issues, 24, 46-50.
Beck, T., Clarke, G., Groff, A., Keefer, P. & Walsh, P. (2001). New tools in comparative
political Economy: The Database of political Institutions. World Bank Economic
Review, 15 (1), 165–176.
Belser, P., de Cock, M. & Mehran, F. (2005). ILO minimum Estimate of forced Labour in the
World. Geneva: International Labour Office.
Bjørnskov, C. (2008). On Globalization and Human Rights: The Importance of Types of
Globalization. Presented at the conference: Beyond Basic Questions, Göttingen,
October 10-11.
Britannica Editor, Britannica Book of the Year, 2001, Encyclopedia Britannica, Chicago.
Bureau of the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings. (2005).
Trafficking in Human Beings, The Hague: Bureau NRM.
Cameron, S., (2002). Economics of Sin: Rational Choice or no Choice at all?. Cheltenham:
Edward Elgar.
Cameron, S. & Collins, A. (2003). Estimates of a Model of Male Participation in the Market
for Female Heterosexual Prostitution Services. European Journal of Law and
Economics, 16: 271-288.
Cameron, S. & Newman, E. (2008). Trafficking in Humans: Structural Factors. In S. Cameron
& E. Newman (Eds.), Trafficking in Humans: Social, Cultural and political
Dimensions. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.
Cheibub, J. A., Gandhi, J. & Vreeland, J. R. (2010). Democracy and Dictatorship revisited.
Public Choice, 143 (1-2), 67-101.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (2010)., CIA Country Fact Book.
Cho, S.-Y. (2011). Integrating Equality: Globalization, Women’s Rights, Son Preference and
Human Trafficking. Poverty, Equity and Growth Discussion Paper No.73. Courant
Research Centre, Georg-August-University of Goettingen, Germany .
Cho, S.-Y. (2012). Modeling for Determinants of Human Trafficking. Ibero-America Institute
for Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 216, Georg-August-University of
Goettingen, Germany.
Cho, S.-Y., Dreher, A. & Neumayer, E. (2011). The Spread of anti-trafficking Policies:
Evidence from a new Index. Center for European, Governance and Economic
Development Research Discussion Paper 119. Georg-August-University of
Goettingen, Germany.
Cho, S.Y., & Vadlamannati, K.C. (2012). Compliance with the Anti-trafficking Protocol.
European Journal of Political Economy, 28, 249-265.
Collins, A. & Judge, G. (2010). Differential enforcement across Police Jurisdictions and
Client Demand in paid Sex Markets. European Journal of Law and Economics, 29
(1), 43-55.
Danailova-Trainor, G. & Belser, P. (2006). Globalization and the illicit Market for Human
Trafficking: An empirical Analysis of Supply and Demand. ILO Working Paper No.
78. Geneva: International Labour Organization.
De Soysa, I. & Vadlamannati, K. C. (2011). Does being bound together suffocate, or liberate?
The Effects of economic, Social, and Political Globalization on Human Rights, 1981–
2005. Kyklos, 64 (1), 20-53.
Di Nicola, A., Orfano, I., Cauduro, A. & Conci, N. (2005). Study on national Legislation on
Prostitution and the Trafficking in Women and Children, European Parliament.
Transcrime - Joint Research Centre on Transnational Crime , Retrieved
from: (accessed July 11, 2011).
Di Tommaso, M. L., Shima, I., Strøm, S. & Bettio, F. (2009). As bad as it gets: Well-being
Deprivation of sexually exploited trafficked Women. European Journal of Political
Economy, 25 (2), 143-162.
Edlund, L. & Korn, E. (2002). A Theory of Prostitution. Journal of Political Economy, 110
(1), 181-213.
Ekberg, G. (2004). The Swedish Law that prohibits the Purchase of sexual Services. Violence
Against Women, 10 (10), 1187-1218.
Farley, M. (2009). Theory versus Reality: Commentary on four Articles about Trafficking for
Prostitution. Women’s Studies International Forum, 32, 311-315.
Freedom House. (2010), Freedom of the Press. Retrieved from:
Gassebner, M., Lamla, M. & Sturm, J. (2011). Economic, Demographic and Political
Determinants of Pollution reassessed: A Sensitivity Analysis. Oxford Economic
Papers, 63 (1), 568-595.
German Federal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt). (1999-2009). Human Trafficking
National Situation Report (Lagebild Menschenhandel). Wiesbaden: German Federal
Police Office.
Giusta, M. D., Di Tommaso, M. L. & Strøm, S. (2009). Who is watching? The Market for
Prostitution Services. Journal of Population Economics, 22, 501-516.
Hernandez, D. & Rudolph, A. (2011). Modern Day Slavery: What drives Human-trafficking
in Europe? Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research
Discussion Paper 97. Georg-August-University of Goettingen, Germany.
Hughes, D. (2000). The “Natasha” Trade: The Transnational Shadow Market of Trafficking in
Women. Journal of International Affairs, 53 (2), 625-651.
International Herald Tribune. (2011, May 27). Raiding a Brothel in India. International
Herald Tribune, p. 9.
Jakobsson, N. & Kotsadam, A. (2011). The Law and Economics of international Sex Slavery:
Prostitution Law and Trafficking for sexual Exploitation. European Journal of Law
and Economics, forthcoming.
Kangaspunta, K. (2003). Mapping the inhuman Trade: Preliminary Findings of the Database
on Trafficking in Human Beings. Forum on Crime and Society, 3 (1 & 2), 81-103.
Kaufmann, D., Kraay, A. & Mastruzzi, M. (2009). Governance matters VIII: Aggregate and
individual Governance Indicators 1996-2008. Policy Research Working Paper Series
4978. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.
La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A. & Vishny, R. W. (1998). Law and Finance.
Journal of Political Economy, 106 (6), 1113-1155.
Leamer, E. E. (1983). Let`s take the Con out of Econometrics. American Economic Review,
73 (1), 31-43.
Levine, R. & Renelt, D. (1992). A Sensitivity Analysis of Cross-country Growth Regressions.
American Economic Review, 82 (4), 942-63.
Limoncelli, S. A. (2009). The Trouble with Trafficking: Conceptualizing Women’s sexual
Labor and economic Human Rights. Women’s Studies International Forum, 32, 261-
Limoncelli, S. A. (2010). The Politics of Trafficking. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Mahmoud, T. O. & Trebesch, C. (2010). The economic Drivers of Human Trafficking: Micro-
evidence from five Eastern European Countries. Journal of Comparative Economics,
38 (2), 173-188.
Miron, J. A. (2003). The Effect of Drug Prohibition on Drug Prices: Evidence from the
Markets for Cocaine and Heroin. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 85 (3),
Miron, J. A. & Zwiebel, J. (1991). Alcohol Consumption during Prohibition. The American
Economic Review, 81 (2), 242-247.
Neumayer, E. (2006). Unequal Access to foreign Spaces: How States use Visa Restrictions to
regulate Mobility in a globalised World. Transactions of the British Institute of
Geographers, 31 (1), 72-84
Nussbaum, M. (1999). Sex and Social Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Outshoorn, J. (2004). Introduction: Prostitution, Womens Movements and democratic
Politics. In J. Outshoorn (Ed.), The Politics of Prostitution: Women's Movements,
Democratic States and the Globalisation of Sex Commerce (pp. 1-20). Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Outshoorn, J. (2005). The political Debates on Prostitution and Trafficking of Women. Social
Politics, 12 (1), 141-155.
Potrafke, N. (2011). Human anti-trafficking Policies: The Roles of Religion and political
Institutions. mimeo. University of Konstanz, Germany.
Potrafke, N. & Ursprung, H. (2012). Globalization and Gender Equality in developing
Countries. European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming.
Protection Project. (2002). Human Rights Report on Trafficking in Persons: Especially
Women and Children. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University.
Rubin, D.B. (1987). Multiple Imputation for Nonresponse in Surveys. New York: Wiley.
Saguy, A. C. (1999). Puritanism and Promiscuity? Sexual Attitudes in France and the United
States. Comparative Social Research, 18, 227-247.
Sala-i-Martin, X. (1997). I just ran four Million Regressions. American Economic Review, 87
(2), 178-183.
Segrave, M: (2009). Order at the Border: The Repatriation of Victims of Trafficking.
Women’s Studies International Forum, 32, 251-260.
Schneider, F. (2005). Shadow Economies around the World: What do we really know?.
European Journal of Political Economy, 21 (3), 598-642.
Sturm, J. & de Haan, J. (2001). How robust is Sala-i-Martin’s Robustness Analysis.mimeo.
University of Groningen, The Netherlands.
Tyldum, G. & Brunovskis, A. (2005). Describing the unobserved: Methodological
Challenges. In F. Laczko (Ed.), Empirical Studies on Human Trafficking in Data and
Research on Human Trafficking: A Global Survey. Geneva: International
Organization for Migration.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2005 & 2010). Human Development
Report. Retrieved from:
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). (2006). Global Report on Trafficking
in Persons. Vienna: UNODC.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). (2009). Global Report on Trafficking
in Persons. Vienna: UNODC.
United States Department of State. (1999-2008). Country Report on Human Rights Practice.
Washington, D.C.: United States Department of State Publication.
United States Department of State. (2001-2011) Trafficking in Persons Report, Office of the
Undersecretary for Global Affairs. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of
State Publication.
World Bank. (2010 & 2011). World Development Indicators. Washington, DC.: The World
See Batsukova (2007) and Ekberg (2004), then Swedish Minister of Industry, Employment, and
Communications, as well as the New York Times regular commentator Nicholas D. Kristof
(International Herald Tribune, 2011) for similar views.
On the other hand, the International Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in
Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against
Transnational Organized Crime (2000), does not clearly state its position concerning prostitution.
In addition, Di Nicola, Orfano, Cauduro and Conci (2005) provide descriptive statistics focusing on
11 EU countries. According to their results, stricter prostitution laws are correlated with reduced flows
of human trafficking. In ongoing research following this paper, Hernandez and Rudolph (2011) also
examine the effect of legalization of prostitution laws on trafficking flows to 13 European countries.
However, the fixed country dummies included in their analysis do not allow for the exploitation of the
cross-sectional variation in prostitution laws. Their results reflect the few changes in the laws of the
sample countries over the 1998-2009 period.
Note that we can remain agnostic as to whether any of those individuals actually supplying
prostitution services do so “voluntarily.” What matters is that either prostitutes themselves, or their
pimps forcing them to prostitute themselves, are willing to supply prostitution services.
With regard to prostitution, the apparent physical attractiveness and age of prostitutes can be crucial
endowments determining the price level of their sexual services (Edlund
Korn, 2002).
Wages that forced prostitutes (e.g., trafficking victims) actually receive may not be high, with the
profits earned by their pimps being high instead.
Nussbaum (1999) describes the similarities of bodily risks and working conditions colonoscopy
artists and prostitutes face and the level of skills required for these professions. By doing so, she
challenges the rational basis of the social stigma imposed on prostitutes (i.e., prostitutes as fallen
women lacking bodily integrity).
We say “almost” invariably, since one could construct an argument that the illegality of prostitution
renders the service more interesting and thus in higher demand. There might be some clients who are
drawn to prostitution mainly because of its illegality, but we think this phenomenon is unlikely to be
common. For further discussions on clients’ risk aversion and decision to buy sex, see Cameron and
Collins (2003), and Giusta et al. (2009).
The large size of the shadow economy in most countries suggests that states do not prosecute tax
evasion vigorously (Schneider, 2005).
Consistent with this proposition, Danailova-Trainor and Belser (2006) show that human trafficking
is higher in countries with a larger sex industry.
A domestic individual’s willingness to work as a prostitute also depends on their opportunities in
other labor markets.
If there were severe constraints on the expansion of prostitution services provided by domestic
individuals despite its legalization, then the share of trafficked prostitutes could even increase. This
will typically not be the case.
The distribution of the other regions is: Asia (11%), Africa (5%), Central and Eastern Europe (5%),
Latin America (4%), Oceania (4%) and the CIS (2%), in addition to 22% of institutions being
categorized as international.
There is a concern that the UNODC data does not capture the number of human trafficking victims
because the data are not weighted by the (reported) number of victims but weighted by the frequency
the subject is mentioned in the reports. In fact counting the number of victims is one of the most
challenging problems in human trafficking research and the literature has not yet agreed on
appropriate estimation methods (Kangaspunta, 2003). The UNODC (2006) report explains that
weighting by the quoted number of victims distorts the validity of information to a large extent
because quoted figures of victims from different sources tend to contradict each other.
Prostitutes can be self-employed or employed by others (through brothels, for example). The vast
majority of countries with legalized prostitution allow self-employed, street prostitution only, but there
are several countries which allow both self-employment and brothel operation. In our sample, there is
no country which legalized brothel operation while prohibiting self-employment.
Jakobsson and Kotsadam (2011) also follow this method and construct a variable for prostitution
legislation in 2003 for 39 European countries.
That is, one year prior to the collection of data on the incidence of human trafficking, the dependent
In constructing the prostitution law variable, we use the CEDAW country reports for the 1995-1998
period, and the US Human Rights Reports for the 1999-2008 period.
Coefficients and standard errors are adjusted according to Rubin’s (1987) combination rules.
Tellingly, there is only one low-income country (Cambodia) with a high incidence of inward
trafficking and in this case the demand is driven by foreign tourists. Modeling the international sex
tourism industry is beyond the scope of this paper.
We additionally included dummies indicating income groups. However, given that these dummies
did not turn out to be jointly significant at conventional levels, we exclude them from the estimations.
Our results are not affected by this.
The effect of prostitution laws on human trafficking flows might also be affected by the enforcement
of international treaties against trafficking. When we control for government’s compliance with anti-
trafficking laws regarding the prosecution of perpetrators, protection of victims, and prevention of the
crime (using data constructed in Cho, Dreher & Neumayer, 2011) our results are not affected. Among
the three indices we use to measure compliance with anti-trafficking policies, only protection is
significant at conventional levels, with the expected positive coefficient. We include these indices in
our tests for robustness below. Another interesting question would be to investigate the effect of
legalized prostitution on the enforcement of anti-trafficking policies. We leave this question for future
We do not include a similar variable for the share of Muslims in our main estimations since this
variable is highly correlated with our regional dummy variable for North Africa and the Middle East.
However, we include such a variable in our extreme bounds analysis in the robustness section.
The index is also available for one prior year, 1996. However, the number of observations is
substantially lower so we prefer using data from 1998 instead. Note that the coding for the prostitution
dummy refers to the year 1995. For some countries, prostitution law changed during the 1996-2003
period: Bangladesh (2000), Colombia (2002), Germany (2002), Denmark (1999), Greece (1999),
Hungary (1999), Netherlands (2000), New Zealand (2003), and Sweden (1999). Our results are robust
to the exclusion of these countries.
A set of variables of potential importance we cannot include here refers to countries’ immigration
policies. While such policies are available for selected industrial countries, they are not available for
the large sample of less developed countries in our sample. We address one part of immigration
policies by including the countries’ visa restrictions in our robustness section. Our results do not
depend on this.
These are Cuba, Hong Kong, Iraq, Libya, Qatar, and Serbia.
The World Bank (2010) defines these groups to be those with a 2009 GNI per capita below $995
(low income) and $12,276 or more (high income). In column 4, data for ten countries are imputed:
Afghanistan, Cuba, Hong Kong, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Korea, Libya, Myanmar, Qatar, Serbia,
and Zimbabwe. In column 5, data for Hong Kong and Qatar are imputed.
Note that the regional dummies cannot be included in this regression given that the World Bank’s
regional classification includes high income countries in the Western and other industrialized countries
For these models, we can also calculate goodness of fit statistics that cannot readily be provided for
the imputed models. In the ordered probit model (column 7), McFadden's Adjusted R
is 0.16, while
the adjusted R-squared for the OLS model is 0.50 (column 8).
The Stata code we use follows Gassebner, Lamla and Sturm (2011).
See Sturm and de Haan (2001).
The results reported below consequently reflect the impact of the additional control variables rather
than those of different samples.
The control variables again refer to the year 1995, with the exception of the share of right-wing
governments and anti-trafficking policies. The share of governments refers to the 1990-1995 period, as
we expect the type of government over a longer period to be more important than the stance of a
government in a particular year. The policy indices are not available for 1995, so we take the average
over the 1996-2003 period (i.e., the same years the dependent variable refers to).
One of the measures considers a country to be visa-free if one can obtain a visa upon arrival at the
border, whereas the other counts this as a visa restriction.
We thank Gergana Danailova-Trainor and Patrick Belser for sharing their data. The estimates of the
ILO are in line with Di Nicola et al.’s estimate given that the duration of the victims being trafficked is
generally between 3 to 18 months (Belser et al., 2005; Di Nicola et al., 2004).
Part of the demand in Denmark might however arise due to the change in Swedish prostitution laws
and vice versa. As pointed out by Collins and Judge (2010), clients can be expected to react to inter-
jurisdictional differences in regulations. Swedish clients might cross the border and use prostitution
services in Denmark, while prostitution and trafficking in Sweden might be higher if prostitution were
illegal in Denmark as well.
On the other hand, the number of victims identified by the police varies from year to year without a
clear pattern, probably reflecting the level of enforcement and policy priority rather than the true
magnitude of the problem (see German Federal Police Office, 1999-2009).
This increase is partly attributable to the change in the definition of human trafficking victims in
2003; German nationals are also included in the category from 2003 onwards. However, this change
does not fully explain the increase because German nationals amount to only 10.3% of all victims in
the given year (German Federal Police Office, 2005).
Table 1: Human Trafficking and Prostitution, cross section
(1) (2) (3) ( 4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
Legal prostitution dummy 0.665** 0.612** 0.322 0.948* 0.625** 0.694** 0.662***
(2.38) (2.18) (1.45) (1.83) ( 2.61) (2.47) (2.74)
Legal brothels dummy 0.555 0.689*
(1.60) (1.95)
Rule of law -0.555* -0.547* -0.361 -0.322 - 0.827 -0.559** -0.536* -0.546**
(1.86) (1.83) (1.42) (1.41) ( 1.45) (2.13) (1.75) (1.99)
(log) population 0.232** 0.241*** 0.235*** 0.195** 0.530** 0.177** 0.236** 0.187**
(2.50) (2.60) (2.59) (2.37) ( 2.33) (2.09) (2.49) (2.11)
(log) GDP per capita 0.664** 0.627** 0.495** 0.444** 0.787 0.645*** 0.674** 0.673***
(2.37) (2.23) (2.01) (2.27) ( 1.31) (2.72) (2.27) (2.67)
Democracy dummy 0.780** 0.750* 0.801** 0.614** 0.219 0.635* 0.813* 0.678*
(2.02) (1.94) (2.07) (2.28) ( 0.31) (1.91) (1.91) (1.83)
(log) migrant stock 0.228** 0.221** 0.244** 0.258*** 0.183 0.200** 0.222** 0.196**
(2.28) (2.21) (2.43) (2.91) ( 0.86) (2.23) (2.10) (2.07)
Share of catholics -0.006 -0.006 -0.005 -0.005 - 0.010* -0.005 -0.007* -0.006
(1.48) (1.53) (1.21) (1.35) ( 1.92) (1.37) (1.65) (1.57)
East Asia dummy 0.251 0.159 -0.059 0.173 0.379 0.312 0.456
(0.36) (0.23) (0.09) (0.29) (0.59) (0.42) (0.65)
Devel oping Europe dummy -1.057* -1.148* -1.199** -1.101** -0.909* -1.050* -0.890
(1.77) (1.94) (2.06) (2.10) (1.72) (1.69) (1.59)
Latin America dummy - 1.658*** -1.750*** -1.561*** -1.376*** - 1.478*** -1.518*** -1.361**
(3.20) (3.35) (3.15) (3.08) (2.99) (2.87) (2.61)
MENA dummy -0.726 -0.882 -1.056** - 0.925** -0.587 -0.723 -0.592
(1.26) (1.53) (1.97) (1.97) (1.04) (1.17) (0.93)
South Asia dummy -0.566 -0.633 -0.866 -1.530** -0.280 -0.526 -0.224
(0.92) (1.02) (1.38) (2.37) (0.51) (0.84) (0.39)
Sub-Sahara Africa dummy -0.848 -0.942 -0.979 -0.905* - 0.696 -0.734 -0.566
(1.36) (1.51) (1.62) (1.75) (1.16) (1.07) (0.83)
Sample no poor no poor no poor all rich no poor no poor no poor
Method O. Probit,
O. Probit,
O. Probit,
O. Probit,
O. Probit,
Order Probit OLS
Number of countries 116 116 116 150 46 116 110 110
Absolute t-statistics in parentheses; * (**, ***) indicates significance at 10 (5, 1) percent level.
Table 2: Regional Jackknife, Human Trafficking and Prostitution, Ordered Probit, imputed
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
Legal prostitution dummy 0.704* 0.794*** 0.603* 0.565* 0.696** 0.652** 0.677**
(1.84) (2.63) (1.91) (1.84) (2.47) (2.32) (2.34)
Rule of law -0.390 -0.641** -0.552* -0.536 -0.631* -0.537* -0.506
(1.26) (2.02) (1.94) (1.44) (1.91) (1.80) (1.61)
(log) population 0.177 0.193* 0.152 0.362*** 0.284*** 0.226** 0.231**
(1.61) (1.94) (1.43) (3.67) (2.68) (2.44) (2.43)
(log) GDP per capita 0.588* 0.749** 0.486 0.691** 0.788** 0.660** 0.595**
(1.91) (2.44) (1.60) (2.15) (2.52) (2.37) (2.05)
Democracy dummy 0.886* 0.730* 0.898** 0.631 0.788** 0.761** 0.753*
(1.66) (1.75) (2.19) (1.45) (2.00) (1.98) (1.93)
(log) migrant stock 0.188* 0.255** 0.453*** 0.146 0.170 0.220** 0.204**
(1.68) (2.34) (3.76) (1.34) (1.59) (2.21) (1.96)
Share of catholics 0.002 -0.006 -0.007 -0.007 -0.007* -0.006 -0.007
(0.26) (1.38) (1.56) (1.44) (1.72) (1.46) (1.56)
East Asia dummy 1.085* 0.248 -0.152 0.222 0.266 0.158
(1.82) (0.30) ( 0.22) (0.30) (0.38) (0.22)
Developing Europe dummy -0.068 -1.023* -1.143* -0.993 -1.020* -1.089*
(0.10) (1.67) (1.80) (1.63) (1.72) (1.76)
Latin America dummy -1.426** -1.680*** -1.813*** -1.612*** -1.628*** -1.651***
(2.10) (3.16) (3.17) (3.03) ( 3.18) (3.06)
MENA dummy 0.309 -0.654 -1.068 -0.981 -0.705 -0.793
(0.76) (1.06) (1.50) (1.58) (1.24) (1.34)
South Asia dummy 0.396 -0.358 -1.213* -0.739 -0.452 -0.626
(0.47) (0.55) (1.75) (1.20) (0.72) (0.96)
Sub-Sahara Africa dummy -0.812 -1.220 -1.037 -0.744 -0.826
(1.25) (1.55) (1.55) (1.16) (1.34)
Sample without: Western
East Asia Developing
MENA South Asia Sub-Sahara
Number of countries 70 109 98 96 105 113 105
Absolute t-statistics in parentheses; * (**, ***) indicates significance at 10 (5, 1) percent level.
Table 3: Extreme Bounds Analysis (EBA), Ordered Probit, imputed
Variable Avg. Beta
%Sign. CDF-U
Latin America dummy -1.63 0.55 1.00 1.00
(log) migrant stock 0.26 0.10 1.00 0.99
(log) GDP per capita 0.73 0.30 0.95 0.99
Legal prostitution dummy 0.65 0.28 1.00 0.99
Rule of law -0.59 0.28 0.84 0.97
Developing Europe dummy -1.06 0.60 0.52 0.95
Democracy dummy 0.71 0.43 0.55 0.93
(log) population 0.18 0.10 0.62 0.92
Share of Catholics -0.01 0.00 0.29 0.91
Sub-Sahara Africa dummy -0.76 0.67 0.01 0.86
MENA dummy -0.66 0.59 0.00 0.86
East Asia dummy 0.44 0.73 0.00 0.72
South Asia dummy -0.37 0.66 0.00 0.70
Notes: Variables are sorted according to their CDF(0). All results are based on 3,303 regressions.
‘Avg. beta’ reports the average coefficient while ‘Avg S.E.’ indicates the average standard error of all
regressions. ‘%Sig’ shows the percentage of regressions in which the coefficient is statistically
different from zero at the 5 percent level at least. ‘CDF-U’ shows the (unweighted) mass of the larger
part of the distribution of the estimated coefficients (i.e., the value is always greater or equal to 0.5).
The criterion for a variable we consider as robust is a value of 0.9 or above.
-2 0 2 4
-1 -.5 0 .5 1
Human Trafficking | X
Legal prostitution dummy | X
Figure 1: Partial Leverage Plot of the Effect of Prostitution on Reported Human Trafficking
Appendix A. Degree of Human-Trafficking Inflows
Number of Sources Index Ranking Total Number of Countries
0 (No) 24
1 1 (Very low) 29
2-3 2 (Low) 27
4-10 3 (Medium) 50
11-24 4 (High) 21
25-40 5 (Very high) 10
Source: UNODC (2006, p.118)
The Index does not explicitly specify a ranking for countries with no inflow of human
Appendix B. Distribution of Countries across Categories of Human-Trafficking Inflows
Very High High Medium Low Very Low
United States of
Bosnia and
Hong Kong, China
Taiwan Province of
Czech Republic
(Serbia and
Saudi Arabia
United Arab
United Kingdom
Burkina Faso
Cote d'Ivoire
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Macao, China SAR
New Zealand
Republic of Korea
Russian Federation
Serbia and
South Africa
Syrian Arab
The former
Republic of
Viet Nam
Brunei Darussalam
Congo, Republic of
Costa Rica
Lao People's
Libyan Arab
Sri Lanka
United Republic of
Congo, Democratic
Republic of
Republic of
Sierra Leone
Trinidad and
Source: UNODC (2006, p.20)
Appendix C. Prostitution Regimes
0 1
0: complete prohibition; 1: prostitution legal but 3rd party involvement illegal; 2: complete legalization
(1995, 167countries)
Prostitution Regime in the World
Source: US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practice (1999-2008) and
various issues of CEDAW country reports
Appendix D. Descriptive Statistics (estimation sample, Table 1, column 8)
Variables Mean Std. Dev. Min Max
Human trafficking inflows 2.56 1.46 0.00 5.00
Legal prostitution dummy 0.47 0.50 0.00 1.00
Rule of law 0.19 0.99 -1.57 2.00
(log) population 16.08 1.72 12.29 20.91
(log) GDP per capita 8.90 1.05 6.92 10.83
Democracy dummy 0.62 0.49 0.00 1.00
(log) migrant stock 5.79 1.74 0.99 10.05
Share of Catholics 33.94 38.40 0.00 97.30
East Asia dummy 0.06 0.25 0.00 1.00
Developing Europe dummy 0.15 0.36 0.00 1.00
Latin America dummy 0.17 0.38 0.00 1.00
MENA dummy 0.08 0.28 0.00 1.00
South Asia dummy 0.03 0.16 0.00 1.00
Sub-Sahara Africa dummy 0.10 0.30 0.00 1.00
Appendix E. Sources and Definitions
Human trafficking inflows Reported incidences of human trafficking inflows. Score 0
(no flows) and 5 (very high flows).
UNODC (2006)
Legal prostitution dummy Dummy indicating whether or not a country allows
prostitution. 1 being legal and 0 otherwise.
US Dept. of State (1999-
Legal brothel dummy Dummy indicating whether or not a country allows
brothel/pimping. 1 being legal and 0 otherwise.
US Dept. of State (1999-
Rule of law Index in the range of -2.5 to 2.5, with higher values
corresponding to better outcomes.
Kaufmann et al. (2009)
(log) population
Log of a country's total population.
World Bank (2011)
(log) GDP per capita
Log of GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2005 international $).
World Bank (2011)
Democracy dummy Indicates whether multipl e parties are legally allowed
and exist outsi de the regime front, and whether the
selection of the exe cutive and the legislature involve an
either direct or indirect mandate from an electorate.
Cheibub et al. (2009)
(log) migrant stock
Stock of migrants.
UNDP (2010)
Share of Catholics Share of Catholics in overall population. Encyclopedia
Britannica Book (2001)
Regional dummi es Dummies for the regions East Asia dummy, Developing
Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa
(MENA), South Asia and Sub-Sahara Africa.
World Bank (2010)
Media Freedom Freedom of the Press Index . Score 0 (best) to 100 (worst). Freedom House (2009)
Tourism inflows
Annual number of foreign visitors in a country.
World Bank (2011)
Share of Protestants Share of Protestants in overall population. Encyclopedia
Britannica Book (2001)
Share of Muslims Share of Muslims in overall popul ation.
Britannica Book (2001)
Share of a country's population livi ng in cities.
World Bank (2011)
Trade (% of GDP)
Trade in percent of GDP.
World Bank (2011)
Prosecution index Inde x assessing the level of governmental efforts to
punish and prosecute traffi ckers and other related
offenders (such as employers of trafficking victims, law
enforcement officials who collude with traffickers, and
clients of services provide d by human trafficking victims).
Cho et al. (2011)
Protection inde x Index assessi ng the level of governmental efforts to
protect and assist the victims of human trafficking.
Cho et al. (2011)
Prevention index Inde x assessing the level of governmental efforts to
prevent and combat human trafficking.
Cho et al. (2011)
Right government The share of right-wing governments in power over the
1990-95 period.
Unemployment, male
Unemployment, male (in percent of the male labor force).
World Bank (2011)
Unemployment, female Unemployment, female (in percent of the male labor
World Bank (2011)
Employment, agriculture Employment in agriculture (i n percent of total
World Bank (2011)
Literacy rate Literacy rate, adult total (in percent of people ages 15 and
World Bank (2011)
Mortality rate
Mortality rate, under-5 (per 1,000).
World Bank (2011)
Visa restrictions The number of foreign countries whose nationals need a
visa to enter the country under observation (in 2004).
Neumayer (2006)
Visa restrictions 2 The number of foreign countries whose nationals need a
visa to enter the country under observation (in 2004),
counting visa provisi on at border as visa-free access.
Neumayer (2006)
Language dummies Dummies for English speaking, French speaki ng, Spanish
speaking, Portuguese speaki ng, and German speaking
CIA (2010)
Legal origin dummies Dummies for British, Socialist, French, German, and
Scandinavian legal origin.
La Porta et al. (1998)
Many governments invest public funds in communication interventions and campaigns against prostitution and sexual exploitation in an attempt to change attitudes toward prostitution and eventually decrease its consumption. Despite the considerable investment that public institutions have made in campaigns against prostitution and sexual slavery, no known empirical studies have evaluated the effectiveness of such campaigns on attitudes and behavioral change. The messages of these campaigns usually center on one of two thematic focuses: Prostituted women who suffer exploitation and male consumers of prostitution. The present study examines the impact of different anti-prostitution advertisements on attitudes among male participants ( N = 155 male participants). Specifically, the experiment aims to test the differential effect of these two focuses, compared to a no-advertisement control condition, on social support for prostitution, negative and incorrect beliefs about prostitutes, and family values related to prostitution. The results show that compared with the no-advertisement control condition, advertisements focused on men who use prostitutes have a significant effect on social support toward prostitution and incorrect beliefs about prostitutes, whereas advertisements focused on female prostitutes have no effect. The results have practical implications for governments and councils regarding the efficacy of this kind of public communication campaign against prostitution consumption.
Certain markets are illicit because part of the supply is coerced, but little is known about the optimal regulation of such markets. We model a prostitution market with voluntary and coerced prostitutes and ask what regulation can restore the benchmark outcome that would arise under laissez-faire absent coercion. Whereas current policies—decriminalization, criminalization of the buy or sell sides, and licensing—are ineffective against trafficking or harm voluntary suppliers, we show that an alternative policy can restore the benchmark outcome. Our results are relevant to the ongoing debate about decriminalizing prostitution and provide guidance for empirical work on prostitution regulation. (JEL D45, J47, J82, K38, K42)
This chapter explores structural, environmental, and individual factors associated with reporting sexual exploitation among a sample of female sex workers in Bogotá. It examines secondary survey data on paid sexual activity with 2684 sex workers conducted in 2017. Multivariable logistic regression was used to test for associations with self-reported victimisation. Findings reveal that neither Venezuelan nor internal migrants were more at risk than locals in reporting sexual exploitation. The associations with payment per client, having graduated high school, having a post-secondary education, and working on the street were also not significant. Instead, reporting police harassment (AOR = 5.70, p < 0.001) and feeling stigmatised (AOR = 2.15, p < 0.001) yielded positive and significant associations. These findings challenge the conflation between migration, sex work, and sexual exploitation by demonstrating that migration is not a risk factor to victimisation and that sex workers do not have the same risk of reporting exploitation. This chapter concludes that legislation in Colombia facilitates police harassment and stigma against sex work which are associated with an increase in the risk of sexual exploitation.
Modern slavery is a persistent human tragedy and a growing organisational risk. The United Nations' sustainable development goals highlight the significance of governments in shaping firms' sustainability agenda and combating modern slavery. However, little is known about the effects of the institutional environment on modern slavery risk. This study, therefore, investigates the crucial policy question of whether the quality of the institutional environment has any effect on modern slavery and whether sustainable human development reinforces this relationship. Using data from 167 countries, we find that institutional environment quality is negatively associated with the prevalence of and vulnerability to modern slavery and positively associated with its modern slavery risk mitigation. Our results suggest that democratically elected governments operating in politically stable societies with higher quality of voice and accountability, higher levels of control of corruption, and stricter rule of law are more accountable and responsive to modern slavery risks. We also find that sustainable human development (HDI) has a moderating effect on the relationship between institutional environment quality and modern slavery, and this effect is mainly noticeable in low HDI countries. These results imply that governance reforms alone might not yield the desired effects for all countries and, hence, have significant implications for policymakers, companies, and societal stakeholders.
Police complicity in organized crime is not uncommon, yet it is extremely difficult to examine empirically. Using unique sex transaction data from China, we show that police can be complicit in organized prostitution. Specifically, we document that sauna houses and massage parlors with greater neighborhood police density are likely to be “protected” by police and thus can host higher-risk, higher-penalty sex business. The complicity effect is particularly salient during periods of local prostitution crackdowns, implying selective enforcement. Changes in local leadership and visits of the central government’s discipline teams can attenuate the complicity effect.
Full-text available
Leigh Goodmark's work on domestic violence argues for alternatives to criminal justice to 'solve' issues of gendered violence. The criminalisation of sex work and prostitution is rarely discussed in this context-a rather odd omission given the increasing trend towards 'criminalising demand' and counter-calls for decriminalisation in this domain. In this article, we bring the two debates into conversation, using Goodmark's work to bring analytical clarity to the prostitution debate and connect sex work to wider social justice debates in feminist anti-violence circles. We aim to move the conversation beyond retribution and the view that law is justice to outline a vision of justice for sex workers grounded in the principles of rights, recognition and representation. By contextualising the decriminalisation of prostitution within the framework of a wider anti-carceral justice movement, we seek to build alliances for social justice that transcend the current divide.
This article discusses German prostitution legislation in the last years and the changes introduced with the purpose of protecting prostitutes, identified as a group of workers with a specific need for protection, focusing on the consequences of the 2017 Prostitutes Protection Act. However, these changes in legislation have not reduced the exposure of all prostitutes to potential vulnerabilities. On the contrary it has incremented the exposure to potential vulnerabilities of specific groups within prostitutes by excluding undocumented migrants from its protection. This article discusses the exclusion of undocumented migrant prostitutes from the Prostitutes Protection Act and its consequences, such as an exacerbated exposure to poverty, violence, disease, and human trafficking. This empirical analysis is based on Sandra Göttsche’s theoretical approach to the concept of vulnerability, in this volume. Therefore, the article focuses on how the context and specific circumstances of migrants expose them to a potentially increased vulnerability that can be acute when factors such as an uncertain migration status, working in prostitution and lacking access to legal protection intersect.
At present, most countries have officially ratified the ILO Convention concerning forced or compulsory labor; however, serfdom is still present in the 21st century. This article addresses how oppressors recruit their victims and how certain mechanisms affect the extent of modern slavery. We use a matching model to analyze this recruitment process, incorporating involuntariness, which is the distinctive factor of employment relationships in modern slavery. In contrast to the standard matching model, not the workers exert effort to find jobs but the employers exert effort to find and hire slaves. Workers are heterogeneous regarding their vulnerability to enslavement, which is ex-ante unknown to the potential employers. The employer’s decision whether and to what extent to engage in forced labor depends on governmental labor protection and on the probability of detection. The model includes the possibility of bribery such that an employer can avoid sanctions if illicit behavior is detected. Solving the model yields that a high probability of detection and strict labor protection decrease slavery. We show that a high share of slaveholders increases the probability of enslavement and thus, the number of slaves. Surprisingly, strict labor protection increases the slaveholder’s effort, but also decreases their profit. (JEL codes: J23, J47, and J71)
Full-text available
I investigate empirically the role of religion and political institutions in policies against human trafficking, using the new 3P Anti-trafficking Policy Index. The dataset contains 170 countries. The results show that governments in countries with Christian majorities implement stricter anti-trafficking policies than countries with Muslim majorities. The differences between countries with Christian and Muslim majorities is pronounced in dictatorships but less so in democracies. The influence of religion on the overall 3P Anti-trafficking Policy Index is driven by protection and prevention policies. As compared to prosecution policies that mainly target the perpetrators of human trafficking, protection and prevention policies mainly protect the victims of human trafficking, i.e. predominantly women. The conclusions are consistent with other empirical findings regarding the association between religion, political institutions, and human development.
Full-text available
Most of the traditional methods of collecting data cannot be applied to new forms of crime such as trafficking in human beings. The present article examines the qualitative information in the database of the Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The database includes information about all aspects of such trafficking. The data collected are comparable between countries and regions and are divided into three main sections: country reports, characteristics of the victims of such trafficking and of the traffickers and trafficking routes. The article illustrates the complexity of the data entry process. Analysis of the data confirms that trafficking in human beings is a gender-specific phenomenon, a sad manifestation of the rampant violence against women and girls. The results may be used as a basis for setting priorities for international cooperation and for gaining a deeper understanding of the profile of a given country.
Full-text available
We analyze the spread of policies dealing with international trafficking in human beings. Arguing that countries are unlikely to make independent choices, we identify pressure, externalities and learning or emulation as plausible diffusion mechanisms for spatial dependence in anti-trafficking policies. We develop a new index measuring governments’ overall anti-trafficking policies for 177 countries over the 2000-2009 period. We also assess a country’s level of compliance in the three main constituent dimensions of anti-trafficking policies – prosecution, protection and prevention. Employing a spatial autoregressive model, we find that, with the exception of victim protection measures, anti-trafficking policies diffuse across contiguous countries and main trading partners due to externality effects. We find evidence for learning or emulation effects in all policy domains, with countries looking toward peers with similar political views or cultural values. Surprisingly, major destination countries do not seem to exert pressure on relevant main countries of origin or transit to ratchet up their policies.
Full-text available
This study empirically assesses the influence of globalization on the institutional root causes of gender equality as measured by the new OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). We capture the multifaceted concept of globalization with the KOF index and its three sub-indices which measure the economic, social and political dimensions of globalization. Observing the progress of globalization for a sample of almost one hundred countries at ten year intervals starting in 1970, we find that economic and social globalization exerted a decidedly positive influence on the social institutions which underlie gender equality.
How have women's movements challenged states over the past thirty years to deal with women's status and make them incorporate women as political actors? How have states responded to the challenge posed by the rise of the ‘second wave’ of feminism? Women's movement activists demanded state measures on a broad and diverse set of issues, ranging from equal representation in political decision-making and anti-discrimination measures on the labour market to the combat of sexual violence and the right to abortion. Governments responded by developing a varied set of ‘women's policy machineries’ (UN 1993), institutions to deal with such demands, ranging from temporary committees to full-fledged permanent departments within the national bureaucracy. The research described in this book addresses the role of these institutions in advancing the goals of women's movements in a number of post-industrial democracies. It focuses on one of the issues which re-emerged as a feminist concern, prostitution, and it sets out to answer the question of whether these institutions, here termed ‘women's policy agencies’, have been effective in dealing with the issue. In this way the book raises the larger issue of whether governments have actually improved women's status, promoted women's rights and reduced gender-hierarchies that are at the basis of the inequalities between women and men.
World Development Indicators 2014 provides a compilation of relevant, high-quality, and internationally comparable statistics about global development and the fight against poverty. It is intended to help users of all kinds—policymakers, students, analysts, professors, program managers, and citizens—find and use data related to all aspects of development, including those that help monitor and understand progress toward the two goals. • Six themes are used to organize indicators—world view, people, environment, economy, states and markets, and global links. As in past editions, World view reviews global progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and provides key indicators related to poverty. • A complementary online data analysis tool is available this year to allow readers to further investigate global, regional, and country progress on the MDGs: • Each of the remaining sections includes an introduction; six stories highlighting specific global, regional or country trends; and a table of the most relevant and popular indicators for that theme, together with a discussion of indicator compilation methodology.
Revealing how women's movements in Western Europe, North America and Australia have affected politics on prostitution and trafficking of women since the 1970s, this study asks why they are successful in some countries but failures in others. The contributions written by an international team of experts are based on original sources. The final chapter utilizes comparative analysis to determine the factors that make women's movements and agencies successful, presenting an argument for –state feminism—.