NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Researchers Aghast at Extent of Child Sex-Trade

September 10, 2001

An estimated 325,000 U.S. children ages 17 or younger are victims of "commercial sexual exploitation," according to University of Pennsylvania researchers. There are 72 million children ages 17 or younger in the U.S.

"The depth of the problem almost took my breath away at times," says Richard Estes, one of the report's co-authors.

Experts on juvenile law say the report, to be released today, is the deepest investigation yet into the extent of the problem.

  • About 122,000 of the children are runaways from home who have turned to prostitution or pornography to get money for food or drugs.
  • Another 73,000 are children who live at home and are used by family or friends in exchange for money, food, drugs or other benefits.
  • Some 52,000 are "throwaway" children who have been abandoned by parents or guardians and turned to sex trades to survive.
  • About 90 percent of the children were born in the U.S.

Experts report that there were previously few estimates of the number of children involved in the nation's illegal commercial sex trade. The report was compiled at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Youth Policy.

Source: Mark Memmott, "Sex Trade May Lure 325,000 U.S. Kids," USA Today, September 10, 2001.

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