Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore state this as part of the "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" campaign.


There's between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today," Ashton Kutcher tells CNN's Piers Morgan. "If you don't do something to stop that -- that's when there's something wrong with you.

It has been repeated in numerously, e.g. USA Today

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children "Each year, 100,000 to 300,000 American kids, some as young as 12 years old, are exploited in the sex trade"

CBS News

The study (The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico), released Monday, reported that 300,000 to 400,000 children in the United States — 1 in 100 children

  • 4
    I note that the quotes from USA Today and Real Men Don't Buy Girls campaign are not consistent, suggesting at least one of them are wrong. One says "today" and the other says "each year". As an analogy, compare this (fictional) example "Each year, 67% of adults waited in line at the post office." to "Today, 67% of adults are waiting in line at the post office."
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 7:58
  • 1
    This appears to be the report that Village Voice claim is the origin of the claim. I certainly agree that the information is presented in a confusing way. Pages 11-14, with a large cautionary note on page 10, seem to be the main source, with page 28/29 supporting (?) it. The latter explicitly only includes runaways out for longer than a week, undermining a Village Voice claim.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 8:20
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    Another confusion being made is the distinction in definitions (if any) between a youth resorting to individual cases of prostitution to get enough money to stay alive and being a "sex slave".
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 8:23
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    This sounds too much like the usual moral panic not to make me skeptical. Oh, and the numbers are just unrealistically high. Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 13:38
  • I wonder why Estes uses NISMART-1 data when newer NISMART-2 data was available?
    – user1873
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


The Village Voice performed two months of investigative research and found weak evidence to back that claim:

Law enforcement records show that there were only 8,263 arrests across America for child prostitution during the most recent decade.

The "100,000 to 300,000" figure ... came from two University of Pennsylvania professors, Richard J. Estes and Neil Alan Weiner. ... that the figure actually represents the number of children Estes and Weiner considered "at risk" for sexual exploitation, not the number of children actually involved. Who, then, is at risk? Not surprisingly, the professors find that any "outsider" is at risk. All runaways are listed as being at risk. Yet the federal government's own research acknowledges that "most runaway/thrown-away youth were gone less than one week (77 percent)"—hardly enough time to take up prostitution

David Finkelhor, professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire ... "As far as I'm concerned, [the University of Pennsylvania study] has no scientific credibility to it," he says. "That figure was in a report that was never really subjected to any kind of peer review. It wasn't published in any scientific journal."

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    Simple math shows 300,000 is too high. That's 1 in a thousand of the total population. Since only a quarter or so of the US is a minor, that means around 1 in 250 children would be a sex slave.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 4:28
  • That Village Voice quote has a big problem: they claim that less than 1 week is "hardly enough time to take up prostitution". Despite being objectively false, they provide absolutely no evidence to support their claim. A friend of mine works in the field, and some of these girls are forced into prostitution within hours of being abducted or found by a sexual predator. Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 3:10
  • Confounding the number of arrests with the size of a problem is bad journalism. How many people were arrested during the same period for smoking marijuana or driving over the speed limit? Do they believe those numbers reflect the number of violations? And keep in mind, speed limit violations happen in public spaces, whereas child prostitution probably does not. Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 3:14
  • @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket All the same, the main thrust of the argument, that at-risk does not equal child prostitute, is enough to invalidate the claim.
    – H Huang
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 3:23
  • @HHuang No, it does not invalidate the claim. That's an illogical conclusion. It doesn't validate or invalidate it. The truth is the singular author of this question and answer has not provided any proof as to the number of child sex slaves in the USA. All they have done is provide a singular quote of incredibly bad journalism indicating that 1 professor at a university allegedly disagreed with 2 professors at another university. We don't even know if there are any conflicts of interest involved or malice between the professors. Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 3:37

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