Politicization of the Trafficking in Persons Report; Is Political Proximity to the US Associated with Better Rankings?
Since 2001 the US Department of State has been publishing the annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), which serves as a diplomatic tool to engage countries in improving anti-trafficking policies, deterring and prosecuting criminals, and assisting victims. Low rankings can have severe negative economic consequences, which has helped the report achieve many positive policy changes to fight trafficking. At the same time, the TIP reports receive substantial criticism for their subjective rankings. News outlets and researchers claim that the rankings are inflated to serve US interests. As the existing evaluations of the TIP report are based largely on qualitative research or case studies, the question remains to what extent US foreign policy priorities drive country ratings in TIP reports. Put differently, do countries that have close political and economic ties with the US receive more favorable ratings? Building on a novel dataset, this paper aims to disentangle competing mechanisms that link US foreign policy interests to country rankings. My empirical results confirm the presence of political influence, which operates primarily through the diplomatic channel. Insofar, my paper contributes to the growing literature on the politicization of global rankings.
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