Pennsylvanians’ Perceptions of the Nature and Extent of Human Trafficking

Emily Strohacker, Jennifer C. Gibbs, Samantha Woolford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


From 2015 to 2019, reported cases of human trafficking within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have increased by approximately 140%. Further, in the past 10 years, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received over 5,000 calls about human trafficking from Pennsylvania–almost one-tenth of the over 60,000 cases of human trafficking nationwide. Given the extent of this problem, this study sought to explore Pennsylvanians’ understanding of the definition and prevalence of human trafficking. To do so, 1,047 adult residents of Pennsylvania completed an online survey through Qualtrics. Findings show that only 12.8% of respondents were able to correctly identify human trafficking as including both sex and labor, while 45.7% were unable to identify either. Further, Pennsylvanians believe human trafficking is a problem, especially in the Commonwealth. Some significant differences emerged by gender, race, education, political viewpoints, and age. The results of this study provide evidence of a need to increase and improve public education within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania surrounding the possible forms (i.e. sex and labor) and victims of human trafficking, as the public’s understanding of human trafficking is crucial to identify cases and affect change in both policy and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-228
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Human Trafficking
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Anthropology
  • Transportation
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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