Abstract for: System Dynamics as a Method for Analyzing Human Trafficking

This paper describes a system dynamics model designed to test policies that could potentially limit, halt, or reverse the growth of human trafficking (and more broadly female exploitation for sex) in Washington, D.C and elsewhere. Human trafficking has been deemed a “crime against humanity,” yet despite prevention programs around the world – the practice has continued to flourish. We believe these policies have had limited impact because of the variety of variables and causal structures that influence the system as a whole. Through the study of the trafficking/exploitation sex market in Washington, D.C., we have identified some key drivers and limiters in the system, as well as some of the complex interactions between them. A computerized version of our model allows policy makers to virtually test how new policies are likely to influence the system before actually implementing them in the real world. System dynamics presents a new tool in the effort to combat human trafficking/exploitation around the world, and our model is the first step towards fully comprehending and eventually eliminating this modern form of slavery.