Less is always more? (not when it comes to data)

Although last week was spring break and I spent a little less time on my research, this past week has been an extremely important one in terms of results for my research. Just to recap, 2 weeks ago I finished my globalization scale and graphed my data which revealed that there was no correlation between human trafficking and economic globalization.

Most of my prior research demonstrated that there would be a reasonable link between economic globalization and human trafficking so I tried to find possibilities of error before I accepted that my hypothesis was wrong. The first issue was that of sample size. I could only find consistent data for 4 countries in South Asia: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Additionally, out of the countries that I could find data for, three of them are extremely small countries so it would be unreasonable to assume that globalization didn’t affect trafficking.

The second potential error I considered was that the index I made wasn’t an accurate representation of economic globalization. Therefore, I tried to do the analysis again with an established economic globalization index. Once again I got similar results; there was no correlation between economic globalization and human trafficking. I redid the analysis, this time instead of focusing on economic globalization I used an index that looked at globalization as a whole including factors such as political and social globalization but got the same result.

The next step was to detect any patterns in the 3 different trials I did and I finally found a possible explanation: when Nepal is taken out there is clear correlation between economic globalization and trafficking. While confirmation bias pushed me towards thinking that my hypothesis is finally right and that Nepal could just be an outlier it would be unreasonable to draw this conclusion. When we don’t consider Nepal we are effectively only analyzing three countries which isn’t substantial enough to support our hypothesis.

The most important lesson I learned this week was that one of the largest problems when it comes to combating human trafficking is our lack of knowledge about the industry. There is such little data when it comes to documenting the origin and destination of trafficked individuals which is integral to fixing the problem. For the rest of my research, instead of focusing on how trade deals and economic agreements can help decrease trafficking I will shift my focus to policies that South Asian countries can implement to facilitate data collection.

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