Marcus, A., Sanson, J., Horning, A., Thompson, E., & Curtis, R. (2016). Pimping and Profitability Testing the Economics of Trafficking in Street Sex Markets in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Sociological Perspectives, 59(1), 46-65.
Human trafficking has been identified as the second or third most profitable illicit business on the planet. Underlying these claims and billions of dollars in policy funding since the 1990s is an economics of human trafficking built heavily on two assumptions. The first is that nonconsensual labor is more profitable than consensual labor with minors being particularly profitable due to their ubiquity and inability to effectively consent. The second is that, unlike illicit narcotic and weapons sales, human trafficking involves a uniquely renewable and nearly limitless source of profit. This article uses empirical data collected from street sex markets in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 2010–2012 to test some of the assumptions of the economics of human trafficking and puts particular focus on U.S.-based domestic minor sex trafficking by exploring market practices and understandings of young sex workers and pimps/third parties who have opportunities to benefit from the sexual labor of minors. Consistent with broader literature by economic historians and labor process scholars, findings do not support the assumptions of trafficking economics, suggesting the need for trafficking economists and policymakers to give more consideration to local political economies of sex in the design of antitrafficking policy.