Atlanta Youth Count: The Prevalence of Sex and Labor Trafficking Among Homeless Youth in Metro Atlanta

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Author(s): Georgia State University

  • Eric R. Wright, Ph.D.
  • Ana LaBoy, MA

Published: Oct. 22, 2019

Report Intro/Brief:
“The 2018 Atlanta Youth Count was a follow-up study to the 2015 Atlanta Youth Count and Needs Assessment, expanded in 2018 to specifically address sex and labor trafficking among youth experiencing homelessness in metro Atlanta. The goals of this project were to: 1) provide metro Atlanta service providers, policymakers, and youth advocates with practical information on the size, nature, and needs of the homeless, precariously housed, and runaway youth in our community who are involved in various forms of sex and labor trafficking; 2) collect information that can be used to develop and refine policies, programs, and interventions to help these youth in our community; 3) encourage a community-wide dialogue about the needs and social determinants of youth homelessness and human trafficking.

[Related: LGBTQ, Traumatized Homeless Youth More Vulnerable to Being Trafficked: Report]


  • Respondents were 14-25 to qualify for the study. Only 2.3% of respondents were under 18, about half were 18-21 years old and 45.7% were 22-25 years old.
  • Three quarters of respondents identified as straight (72.5%), 23.8% identified as Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual and 3.7% of respondents identified as another sexual orientation.
  • A majority of respondents identified as a cisgender man (59.6%), followed by cisgender women (33.9%), and the smallest category were those who identified as transgender, gender non-conforming, genderqueer or other gender identities (6.5%).
  • The vast majority of respondents identified as either Black/African Americans (55.9%) or Multiracial (32.4%)
  • A quarter of respondents (27.5%) had been homeless during their current episode for more than 1 year.
  • Respondents experienced high levels of childhood trauma, with 59.6% of the sample experiencing adverse levels of trauma in their childhood.
  • Respondents were involved in multiple systems during their childhood, with 62.9% of respondents reporting childhood foster care involvement, childhood arrest or both.
Estimation of Youth Experiencing Homlessness in the Metro-Atlanta
  • There are an estimated 3,372 youth experiencing homelessness in the Metro-Atlanta area in a given fall month.
Prevalence of Sex and Labor Trafficking
  • Human trafficking is defined as experiences of force, fraud, coercion or commercial sexual exploitation in a working situation.
    • 1 in every 2 youth surveyed (54.1%) experienced one or more forms of human trafficking in their lifetime
      • 32.5% of youth experienced force in their lifetime.
      • 40.0% of youth experienced fraud in their lifetime.
      • 39.2% of youth experienced coercion in their lifetime.
      • 19.9% of youth experienced commercial sexual exploitation in their lifetime.
    • 1 in every 3 youth surveyed (36.7%) experienced one or more forms of human trafficking while homeless.
      • 18.4% of youth experience force while homeless.
      • 25.5% of youth experience fraud while homeless.
      • 27.3% of youth experience coercion while homeless.
      • 16.0% of youth experience commercial sexual exploitation while homeless.
Risk Factors for Sex and Labor Trafficking
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth have a greater risk of trafficking than their straight counterparts.
  • Transgender youth have a greater risk of experiencing human trafficking than their cisgender counterparts.
  • Youth experiencing homelessness for more than one year have a greater risk of experiencing human trafficking than their counterparts who have been homeless for less time.
  • Youth with high levels of childhood trauma have a greater risk of experiencing human trafficking than their counterparts.
  • Youth with previous childhood systems involvement have a greater risk of experiencing human trafficking than non-system involved counterparts.” 

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