Jack Shafer in Slate:
Reason magazine’s blog, Hit & Run, calls our attention today to a new Government Accountability Office study that casts doubt on official U.S. government estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year.
Scores of news organizations have accepted the 800,000 estimate as credible in their reporting of human trafficking in recent years. Within the last year alone, the figures have appeared, unquestioned, in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and NPR, just to name just a few outlets.
But government estimates must always be approached with suspicion, as I wrote earlier this summer, citing Max Singer’s 1971 Public Interest article “The Vitality of Mythical Numbers” and Peter Reuter’s 1984 sequel, “The (Continued) Vitality of Mythical Numbers.”