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Slavery is bad for business : analyzing the impact of slavery on national economies

Datta, Monti Narayan; Bales, Kevin


Monti Narayan Datta

Kevin Bales


Public discourse on human trafficking and modern-day slavery is reaching a tipping point -- it is coming to be understood as a global problem with economic and policy implications far beyond simple reports of cross-border human trafficking. A decade ago most educated citizens considered slavery a phenomenon of the past, relegated to history textbooks. Today a strong narrative has reached global proportions: activists, epistemic communities, NGOs, IGOs, and governments are acknowledging the scope and extent of slavery in the twenty-first century. One need only point to Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn’s bestseller Half the Sky, President Barack Obama’s 2012 speech at the Clinton Global Intiative, or the awareness that celebrities such as Mira Sorvino and Jada Pinkett Smith are raising about the subject to illustrate how far the antislavery movement has progressed.1 Yet despite such civic mindedness, surprisingly little data and empirically driven research exist on slavery today. Although some headway has been made in estimating its prevalence -- most notably in the form of contributions by Kevin Bales and by the International Labor Organization (ILO) -- apart from a rough estimate of how many slaves exist in the world today (21 to 27 million), scholars and policy makers know little about the risk factors -- let alone the business impact -- that contemporary slavery has on the global community.2 Indeed, most extant research, although useful, is qualitative, not allowing for statistical models.3 To what extent is slavery empirically bad for business? For whom is the business of slavery profitable, and for whom is it economically burdensome?

Journal Article Type Article
Journal The Brown journal of world affairs
Electronic ISSN 1080-0786
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 205-224
Institution Citation Datta, M. N., & Bales, K. Slavery is bad for business : analyzing the impact of slavery on national economies. Brown Journal of World Affairs, 19(2), 205-224
Keywords REF 2014 submission
Publisher URL
Additional Information Copy of article first published in The Brown journal of world affairs, 2013, v.19, issue 2


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