Given the hidden, criminal nature of contemporary slavery, empirically estimating the proportion of the population enslaved at the national and global level is a challenge. At the same time, little is understood about what happens to the lives of the survivors of slavery once they are free. I discuss some data collection methods from two nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) I have worked with that shed light on these issues. The first NGO, the Walk Free Foundation, estimates that there are about 30 million enslaved in the world today. The second NGO, Free the Slaves, employs a longitudinal analysis to chronicle the lives of survivors. The acquisition and dissemination of such information is crucial because policymakers and donors sometimes require hard data before committing time, political will, and resources to the cause.

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2014

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2014, John Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in SAIS Review of International Affairs: 34:1 (2014), 21-33.

Please note that downloads of the article are for private/personal use only.