Is Human Trafficking the Dark Side of Economic Freedom?

March, 2016

Economic freedom has increased living standards worldwide. Concurrent with such gains are rising concerns about potential human costs associated with free markets. This paper uses data on human trafficking and anti-trafficking policies, in conjunction with a measure of economic freedom, to examine whether free markets exacerbate or attenuate the incidence of human trafficking and policies designed to combat it. We do not find evidence suggesting that economic freedom is associated with human trafficking. In addition, our results suggest that economically free countries are more likely to enact and enforce policies to fight human trafficking.