Our cover story this week that analyzes research conducted by the Atlanta-based Schapiro Group, which claims to track incidents of juvenile prostitution.
The problem is that the claim is based on a seriously flawed methodology — the numbers presented to news outlets as hard statistics are actually based on guesses. The researchers look at photographs posted to online classifieds sites like Craigslist and Backpage and guess who looks under 18.
Beth Schapiro, president of The Schapiro Group, sent us a letter today defending her study. Here's her letter in its entirety:
For 27 years, The Schapiro Group has been carefully and meticulously conducting strategic research for a variety of government, corporate, and non-profit clients – distinguished organizations that profoundly influence how communities work and thrive.
In a subject area where most research involves educated guesswork, The Schapiro Group has pioneered empirical, replicable research methodologies for studying the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).
Beginning in 2007 with a first-of-its-kind statewide tracking study of CSEC victims in Georgia, The Schapiro Group has a track record of developing innovative, common sense methodologies to better understand this hard-to-measure social phenomenon. In an area with no proven methodology, The Schapiro Group developed a series of logical assumptions upon which to base an admittedly conservative count of the number of young females being prostituted. Findings from The Schapiro Group studies are providing policymakers, law enforcement, and social service agencies with important insights for combating the formidable CSEC problem.
The Schapiro Group's research has documented a major shift toward the Internet and escort services, and away from street solicitation, for procurement of underage girls. So it would come as no surprise that those with a commercial interest in this marketplace might seek to try and undermine the research.