commercial sexual exploitation as opposed to actual victims; a distinction between actual victims and those at risk for exploitation is not made. A second issue is that the at-risk numbers do not take into account individuals who may belong in multiple risk categories (Stransky and Finkelhor, 2008). For instance, if a child were homeless, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning, and the victim of child sexual abuse, he/she would belong in three of the risk categories and might have been counted three (or more) times in the estimates. While Estes and Weiner (2002) describe how their research corrects for possible duplicate counts in some categories, the extent of duplicate counting, if any, is unknown. The authors acknowledge that with greater resources, a different methodological approach might be taken that could yield improved estimates. Specifically, they note that “a different type of study from ours—one that used a different methodology and a higher investment of resources—is needed to carry out a national prevalence and incidence survey that could produce an actual headcount of the number of identifiable commercially sexually exploited children in the United States” (Estes and Weiner, 2002, p. 143). Even with these limitations, however, Estes and Weiner’s estimates are the most widely cited national-level estimates of commercial sexual exploitation of minors.
Subsets and Subpopulations of Victims
In an effort to understand the nature and extent of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States, some have examined specific subpopulations or subsets of victims. For example, Greene and colleagues (1999) focus on the prevalence of survival sex among a shelter sample and a sample of street youth. The shelter youth participants were selected using a multistage sample methodology to derive nationally representative data on youth in shelters. The street youth participants were selected as a convenience sample from 10 U.S. cities. Aggregated, these data, gathered in November and December 1992 and focusing on youth aged 12 to 21, revealed that 9.5 percent of the shelter youth and 27.5 percent of the street youth had engaged in survival sex during that year (Greene et al., 1999). While this work did not yield an estimate of the prevalence of minors who are victims or survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, it demonstrates that shelter and street youth may be at high risk for being subject to these crimes given their involvement in survival sex. Nonetheless, a limitation of this research for purposes of understanding the extent of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors is that the samples included only youth aged 12 to 21. Unfortunately, the study does not disaggregate minors (under age 18) from others in the samples, and it does not offer information on minors under age 12. This