Authors: Eric R. Wright, Ana LaBoy, Kara Tsukerman, Nicholas Forge, Erin Ruel, Renee Shelby, Madison Higbee, Zoe Webb, Melanie Turner-Harper, Asantewaa Darkwa and Cody Wallace

Published in Social Sciences, January 2021


Research suggests that runaway and homeless youth (RHY) in the United States are vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking. In this paper, we report and analyze estimates of sex and labor trafficking collected as part of the Atlanta Youth Count 2018, a community-based field survey of RHY between the ages of 14 and 25 in the metro-Atlanta area. A total of 564 participants were recruited and completed a survey that included questions about their backgrounds as well as the Human Trafficking Screening Tool (HTST). We found that 39.9% experienced some form of trafficking while homeless. While 15.6% of the youth reported commercial sexual exploitation while homeless, coerced labor (29.3%) or fraud (25.2%) were even more common experiences. Women, transgender, and gender nonconforming youth, as well young people who had prior system involvement and those who had been homeless for more than a year were the most likely to report having been trafficked. The significance of these findings for research and policy on RHY and trafficking are discussed.

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