Explaining Human Trafficking: Modern Day-Slavery

Reference work entry


The trafficking of persons is a diverse and complex concept that not only lacks a universal definition but which is conflated by a wide range of competing theories or models of explanation. This chapter provides an overview of some of the main theories and explanatory models and perspectives. They range from macro- to micro-level explanations, and the chapter concludes with a suggestion and recommendation for how researchers and theorists might work towards creating an integrated theoretical model.


  1. Adams, C. (2011). Re-trafficked victims: How a human rights approach can stop the cycle of re-victimization of sex-trafficking victims. George Washington International Law Review, 43(1): 201–234.Google Scholar
  2. Angelina, S. & Blagojce, R. (2012). Theory of push and pull factors: A new way of explaining the old. Conference paper present in Belgrade, Servia. Accessed from
  3. Akers, R. L. (1998). Social learning and social structure: A general theory of crime and deviance. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Antonopoulos, G. & Winterdyk, J. (2005). Techniques of Neutralizing the Trafficking of Women: A Case Study of an Active Trafficker in Greece. European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law, and Criminal Justice, 13(2): 136–147,Google Scholar
  5. Armaline, W.T., Glasberg, D.A., & Purkayastha, B. (2015). The Human Rights Enterprise: Political Sociology. Cambridge, UK. Polity Press. Ch. 2Google Scholar
  6. Aronowitz, A.A. (2017). Human trafficking: A reference handbook. Santa Barbara, CA., ABC-CLIO.Google Scholar
  7. Aronowitz, A.A. (2009). Human trafficking, human misery: The global trade in human beings. Westport, CT: Prager.Google Scholar
  8. Bales, K. (2007). Ending slavery: How we free today’s slaves. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bales, K. (2016). Blood and earth: Modern slavery, ecocide, and the secret to saving the world. New York: Random Penguin House.Google Scholar
  10. Brewer, D. (2009). Globalization and human trafficking. Topical Research Digest: Human rights and human trafficking. Retrieved from
  11. Brown, S.E., Esbensen, F-A., & Geis, G. (2014). Criminology: Explaining crime and its context (8th ed.). Cincinnati: Anderson.Google Scholar
  12. Butler, C.N. (2015). A critical race feminist perspective on prostitution and sex trafficking in America. Yale Journal of Law and Feminism. 27(1): 95–139.Google Scholar
  13. Cho, S-Y., Dreher, A., & Neumayer, E. (2013). Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking? World Development, 41: 67–82. Scholar
  14. Cohen, L.E. & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activities approach. American Sociological Review, 44: 588–607.Google Scholar
  15. Cornish, D.B., & Clarke, R.V. (eds.). (1986). The reasoning criminal: Rational choice perspectives on offending. New York: Springer-VerlagGoogle Scholar
  16. Clarke, R.V. (1980). Situational crime prevention: Theory and practice. British J of Criminology, 20: 136–147.Google Scholar
  17. Danailova-Trainor, G. & Belser, P. (2006). Globalization and the illicit market for human trafficking: an empirical analysis of supply and demand. Report prepared for the ILO. Accessed from
  18. Dhungel, R. (2017). “Reintegration of trafficking survivors in Nepal by using an emancipatory and liberatory research paradigm”. Doctoral dissertation - December 2017. Department of Sociology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB., Canada.Google Scholar
  19. Farrell, A. & Fahy, S. (2009). The problem of human trafficking in the U.S.: Public frames and policy responses. Journal of Criminal Justice, 37(6): 617–626.Google Scholar
  20. Felson, M. & L.E. Cohen. (1980). Human ecology and crime: A routine activity approach. Human Ecology, 8(4): 389–405.Google Scholar
  21. Glueck, S. & Glueck, E. (1950). Unraveling juvenile delinquency. New York: The Commonwealth Fund.Google Scholar
  22. Goody, J. (2012). Data on human trafficking: Challenges and policy context. In J. Winterdyk, B. Perrin, and P. Reichel (eds.), Human trafficking: Exploring the international nature, concerns, and complexities. Boca Raton, Fl.: CRC Press. (pp. 39–56).Google Scholar
  23. Guinn, D., & Steglich, E. (2005). In modern bondage: Sex trafficking in the Americas. International and Comparative Criminal Law Series, Vol. 12. Nijhoff, NL: BrillGoogle Scholar
  24. Hardy, V., Compton, K., & McPhatter, V. (2013). Domestic minor sex trafficking: Practice implications for mental health professionals. Journal of Women and Social Work, 28(1): 8–18. Scholar
  25. Hoegen, M. (2009). Statistics and the quality of life: Measuring progress in a world beyond GDP. Bonn, Germany: Internationale Weiterbildung und Entwicklung gGmbH Capacity Building International.Google Scholar
  26. Hoyle, C., Bosworth, M. & Michelle Dempsey, M. (2011). Labelling the Victims of Sex Trafficking: Exploring the Borderland between Rhetoric and Reality, Social & Legal Studies, 20(3): 313–329Google Scholar
  27. Hughes, D. (2005). The demand for victims of sex trafficking. Accessed from
  28. Human Rights and Human Trafficking (2014). New York: United Nations – Human Rights Office of the High Commission. Retrieved from
  29. Kakar, S. (2017). Human Trafficking. Durham, NC.: Carolina Academic Press.Google Scholar
  30. Kara, S. (2017). Modern slavery: A Global Perspective. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Kaye, J. & Winterydk, J. (2012). Explaining human trafficking. In J. Winterdyk, B. Perrin, & P. Reichel (eds.), Human trafficking: Exploring the international nature, concerns, and complexities. Boca Raton, Fl.: CRC Press. (pp. 57–78).Google Scholar
  32. Kenyon, S.D. & Schanz, Y.Y. (2014). Sex Trafficking: Examining Links to Prostitution and the Routine Activity Theory. International Journal of Criminology and Sociology, 3: 61–76.Google Scholar
  33. Kerr, P.L. (2014). Push and Pull: The Intersections of Poverty, Health Disparities, and Human Trafficking. Cancer incites Magazine, 3(2). Accessed from
  34. Lanier, M., & Henry, S. (2004). Essential Criminology (2nd ed.). United States of America: Westview PublishersGoogle Scholar
  35. Lee, M. (2011). Trafficking and global crime control. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Pub.Google Scholar
  36. Lederer, L.J. (2011). End human trafficking: A contemporary slavery. Princeton, NJ: The Witherspoon Institute. Accessed from Scholar
  37. Lesser, J. & Koniak-Griffin, D. (2013). Using qualitative inquiry and participatory research approaches to develop prevention research: validating a life course perspective. Family & Community Health, 36(1):34–41.Google Scholar
  38. Lobasz, K.K. (2009). Beyond Border Security: Feminist Approaches to Human Trafficking. Security Studies, 18: 319–344.Google Scholar
  39. Lopez, D.A. & Minassians, H. (2017). The Sexual Trafficking of Juveniles: A Theoretical Model. Victims & Offenders: An International Journal of Evidence-based Research, Policy, and Practice. 13(2): 257–276. Scholar
  40. Lutya, T.M. & Lanier, M. (2012). An integrated theoretical framework to describe human trafficking of young women and girls for involuntary prostitution. Public Health – Social and Behavioral Science, pp.: 555–570.Google Scholar
  41. Malarek, V. (2011). The Natashas: The horrific inside story of slavery, rape, and murder in the global sex trade. Skyhorse Pub. Inc.Google Scholar
  42. Mano, Parasramsingh. (2018). “Hidden in plain sight: Examining the nature of sex trafficking and sex work in Belize from multiple perspectives”. Doctoral dissertation. Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago.Google Scholar
  43. Marinova, N.K. & James, P. (2012). The Tragedy of Human Trafficking: Competing Theories and European Evidence. Foreign Policy Analysis, 1–23. Scholar
  44. May, C. (2017). “The business of transnational crime.” Global Financial Integrity. Retrieved from
  45. Mathur, N. (2014). Consumer culture, modernity and identity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Pub.Google Scholar
  46. Miller, R. & Baumeister, S. (2013). Managing Migration: Is border control fundamental to anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling interventions? Anti-trafficking Review, 2: 15–32.
  47. Mishra, V. (2015). Combating human trafficking: Gaps in policy and law. New Delhi, India: SAGE Pub.Google Scholar
  48. Morrissey, S. (2006) Sinister Industry. ABA Journal, 92: 59Google Scholar
  49. Parmentier, S. (2010). Epilogue: Human trafficking seen from the future. European J. of Criminology, 7(1): 95–100.Google Scholar
  50. Rahman, M.A. (2011). Human Trafficking in the era of Globalization: The case of Trafficking in the Global Market Economy, Transcience Journal, 2(1): 54–71.Google Scholar
  51. Raigrudski, D. (2016). Creative Capitalism and Human Trafficking: A Business Approach to Eliminate Forced Labor and Human Trafficking from Global Supply Chains. William & Mary Business Law Review, 8(1): 71–134.Google Scholar
  52. Reid, JA. (2012). Exploratory review of route-specific, gendered, and age-graded dynamics of exploitation: Applying life course theory to victimization in sex trafficking in North America. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17(3): 257–271.Google Scholar
  53. Savelsberg, J.J. (2010). Crime and human rights. Thousand Oaks, CA Sage Pub.Google Scholar
  54. Sampson, R. & Laub, J. (1990). Crime and deviance in the life course. Annual Review of Sociology, 58: 63–84.Google Scholar
  55. Sampson, R. & Laub, J. (2003). Life course disaster? Trajectories of crime among delinquent boys followed to age 70. Criminology, 41: 555–592.Google Scholar
  56. Shelley, L. (2010). Human trafficking: A global perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Simmons, B.A. & Lloyd, P. (2010). Subjective frames and rational choice: Transnational crime and the case of human trafficking. International, Transnational & Comparative Criminal Law ejournal. Retrieved from
  58. Sykes, G.M. & Matza, D. (1957). Techniques of neutralization: A theory of delinquency. American Sociological Review, 22: 664–670.Google Scholar
  59. The typology of modern slavery. (2018). Washington, DC: Polaris. Retrieved from
  60. Van den Hoven, A., & Maree, A. (2005). Victimization risk factors, repeat victimization and victim profiling. In L. Davis & R. Snyman. Victimology in South Africa, 55–71, Pretoria: Van Schaik PublishersGoogle Scholar
  61. van Duyne, P.C. & Spencer, J. (eds.). (2011). Flesh and money: Trafficking in human beings. Nijmegen, NL: Wolf Legal Pub.Google Scholar
  62. Wheaton, E.M., Schauer, E.J., & Galli, T.V. (2010). Economics of human trafficking. International Migration, 48(4): 114–141.Google Scholar
  63. Williams, F.P. III, & McShane, M.D. (2018). Criminological theory (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: United States.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer International Publishing AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy StudiesMount Royal UniversityCalgaryCanada

Personalised recommendations