What is HTI?

The Human Trafficking Indicators project (HTI) is headed by principal investigator Richard W. Frank and codes information about human trafficking flows between 179 countries and within them from 2000 to 2011. These data capture the various types of human trafficking found within a country as well as what its government is doing to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent further trafficking.

For a more thorough description of the variables of HTI, please see the codebook. This database was created as part of a book project currently titled, Understanding Human Trafficking.

Defining human trafficking

We follow the UN’s definition of human trafficking. A person does not need to be physically transported from one location to another, either internally or cross-nationally, to be a victim of trafficking. The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children defines human trafficking as:

“the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

(United States Department of State. 2004. “Trafficking in Persons Report.” Washington DC: 9.)

The US State Department defines severe forms of trafficking in persons as:

“(a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or (b) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”

(United States Department of State. 2001. “Trafficking in Persons Report.” Washington DC: 2.)

Types of trafficking

The HTI measures seven types of human trafficking (labor, forced prostitution, domestic servitude, debt bondage, child forced prostitution, child labor, and child soldiers). This is by no means the only types of trafficking, but ones often mentioned in the literature as being amongst the most prevalent and/or problematic types.

Citing HTI

Any use of the data should include a citation to the HTI and a link to this website. Please cite:

Frank, Richard W. 2013. Human Trafficking Indicators, 2000-2011: A New Dataset. Sydney: University of Sydney. Accessed [date]. Available from SSRN and http://human-trafficking-indicators.org.

Data sources

Currently, the HTI uses the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports as its primary data source. The TIP reports have significant advantages over other current sources for human trafficking information. Most notably, they are the only source I am aware of that provides yearly updates on human trafficking patterns. To date, the only other viable contender, the UNODC’s trafficking reports, only cover 2006, 2009, and 2012. By contrast, the TIP reports allow us to see how trafficking flows and counter-trafficking efforts vary both across space and across time while also using clear and consistent definitions of trafficking types including an explicit threshold of severity. Therefore, the HTI largely relies on the TIP reports as source material. Future iterations of the HTI data (contingent on funding) will broaden the number and types of sources. Current robustness tests are encouraging and are being incorporated into the book manuscript.


The following people provided research assistance for HTI: Jennifer Dumas, Meggan Fitzgerald, Chrissie Herrera, Christina Kiel, Thomas McQuaid, and Ivy Pritchard. Initial funding for HTI was made possible through the University of New Orleans Office of Research Creative Endeavor Opportunities (CEO) Summer grant (2012) and the University of New Orleans Office of Research Stimulating Competitive Research (SCoRe) Summer grant (2011).