The Number: Average price of slave has decreased
April 6th, 2011
12:29 PM ET

The Number: Average price of slave has decreased

The average price of a slave has decreased during the past 200 years, according to Kevin Bales, a leading abolitionist who has written several books about modern-day slavery.

In 1809, the average price of a slave was $40,000 when adjusted to today’s money. In 2009, the average price of a slave was $90, Bales says.

soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. EVN

    I'd like to see some facts on that one, but here is something to ponder.

    If two people work and all of the fruits of the labor of one goes towads paying taxes (in all forms) owed to the government by the couple, isn't one of them a slave? Isn't it also a better system for the master considering that the medical care, feeding, a providing of shelter is being done by the second half of the hypothetical couple? That is precisely the situation my wife and I are in. We live outside of Chicago, and that is the reality of what our tax burden comes to.

    Now, using the author's premise, can't you argue that the cost of a slave has gone down to nothing? No one is "buying" the slave in any sort of transactional sense, yet for nothing, under our current system of taxation, one person of a two person couple is rendering the pecuniary fruits of their labor to Caesar, the other person is supporting the one working just to pay what Caesar demands, and Caesar has his slave for nothing.

    April 6, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Reply
    • The_Mick

      I sympathize, but the fact is that you're not paying ALL the fruits of your labor in taxes. I've hated taxes since I worked near full-time in 1969, earned a decent-for-that-time $7000 while going full-time to college while working 2 summer jobs and a 20-35/hr school year job and had to pay much in taxes. Yet my next door neighbor got pregnant, went on welfare, and got the government to pay her college tuition! But the cost of road maintenance, police, fire, schools, etc. etc. are necessary parts of our society.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:37 am | Reply
      • sleeper0013

        So secret government operations that cost billions are part of the road system? wars that cost countless live and cause diplomatic stresses that in turn stress our government and require more taxes are needed to fight fires? I got an idea, NO MORE FEDERAL TAXES, THE STATES CAN WORRY ABOUT THE ROADS, and the fed can go fu@# it self. that includes twits in congress that still get paid even if the government shuts down.

        April 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Boris


      Um.....are you really comparing yourself and saying that your equal to a slave in the early 1800's because all our money goes to taxes??? ( and really...all?)

      April 8, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Reply
      • Fringe Wizard

        Slaves in the south worked 1,100 hours on average and in the north 1,300 hours.

        Medieval peasants worked even less.

        Our technologically advanced society is enslaving us.

        June 30, 2017 at 5:05 pm |
    • Poke Weed

      I am in total agreement with you and have been for years. The government is the New Plantation. We have plantation courts which were of course used on the real plantations of old where the master was the judge. These courts sort out the slaves offspring and make sure that they either pay child support or end up in jail. Also, they keep the masters on top of the rest of society by making the "law" absolute above all other thought. By the way, the law is what is making you pay the taxes at the point of a gun no less.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      You have got to be kidding! You are comparing your situation in which you pay too much in taxes to an actual slave who has no choice as who they work for or what they do from day to day?

      Just the fact that you are comparing yourselves to actual slaves lets everyone know just what an easy life you have had to this point. Anyone who has experienced real hardhip does not compare paying taxes to slavery.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      The fact that you would compare your situation to that of a slave is disgusting and ignorant. Your hyperbole, ["If two people work and all of the fruits of the labor of one goes towads paying taxes," "That is precisely the situation my wife and I are in."] shows how little you understand your privilege as an American and you shame us all. If you don't want/need the privileges the taxes you pay afford you, go to another country where the government doesn't support the people and see how you like it. Actually, I wonder if you would because you would be so much better off than the people you stick your nose up at with a post like this.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Reply
    • Bill

      Why are you complianing about taxes? In the US, unless you make over $100K per year you really don't pay any. Especially compared to what people paid a few decades ago. Thank Bush for the most progessive tax system EVER! Look it up.

      November 18, 2011 at 11:25 am | Reply
  2. Ariel

    Absolutely right. Not to mention that You get "punished" For choosing to Not have kids and For trying to move up in the ladder. I can't tell You how many times I've been declined For financial aid because i Make too much money according to the government and at the same time i pay thousands in taxes. Its a lose-lose situation.

    April 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Reply
    • Leroy

      doubt you pay thousands – if you made enough to pay thousands you would not need to apply for aid

      April 9, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Reply
      • Poke Weed

        No so Le Roy. He may be too heavy in assests or making more than the low max allowed for some financial aid such as a Pell Grant for his college attending child. As I do not apply for aid, I do not know what is available in general. I have heard about the Pell Grant not being available to people who would benefit with the help considering it is the government that has driven up the cost of a college education by flooding the school with students who did get financial aid.

        You do not have to have much to get out from under the government umbrella and need a lot to get back under it and be willing to eat that government flavored pie.

        April 10, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
      • Calvin

        Leroy, it's obvious that you have never applied for financial aid. Even for a "good" family making 100K annually and assuming a 33% tax rate, that is 33000 paid in taxes to the government. I assume 33000 would qualify as what you would consider "thousands." However, this family is in no position to pay for a 40k a year college, since that would be around 60% of their total yearly income. In fact, many of these people get more than 20k in grants from 40k a year colleges. That makes me wonder how much money you are making to think that paying "thousands" in taxes is a lot. Even if you paid a 15% tax, you would have to make less than 6660 to pay less than 1000 in taxes. The only conclusion is either 1. You are a student 2. You have been laid off and are out of work 3. You're a tax dodger 4. You're the scum of our soceity, with more than 5 kids at home a minimum wage job, which allows your awesome deductions to erase all your taxes.

        June 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  3. jess

    It takes into account price (if they are bought) , "room and board" (the cold floor and cup of rice), the money they put into transport, not paying for medication or care (due to the population surge, humans are easily replaced and its cheaper to let them die), etc., factored with profits. As for the rest, I'll choose not to dignify the selfishness and lack of compassion with a response.

    April 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • EVN

      Not sure what you think is selfish and demonstrating a lack of compassion. Should we contribute even more free labor, in part so that others don't have to? Do my observations of what taxes are doing to the middle class evoke outrage because "how dare he complain – at least he is in a position to be soaked like that"?

      The point is simple – the civilized U.S. has figured out a better system than true humans as chattel slavery. One in which the slaves support themselves while being forced to give away huge amounts of their labor for largely nothing. These tax burdens do not affect the poor in the same way, nor do they have the same impact on the wealthy. The "work two" and get the labor of one for free is largely a middle class double worker income phenomenon. Whether you care to hear it or not, this country's tax system is built on our backs – and many of us are ready to tell the rest just where to get off. Too bad if the anology to slavery with a modern twist offends you.

      April 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Reply
      • Boris

        First of all EVN, the article was to show how the average price of a slave has decreased..... which is eminent as technology progresses as we've seen with the introduction of the steam roller and the cotton gin.

        Nothin to do with taxes or the middle class.... We're not being "outraged". We're kinda surprised because first, you came out of no where comparing yourself to a slave in the early 1800's (are you even black?), and second your supporting it by saying that one person of your two man household is giving all their money to the government, which is definitely not the case.

        I'm not sayin in any way that the government is efficient or my best friend. But it's really easy to be a cry baby and complain and blame it on other people. I do know for sure thou, that through hard work (that maximizes your ability) you can accomplish a lot. (the key word is hard work that maximizes your ability, because a lot of people work hard but not in a way where they invest in themselves. Its usually hardwork of doing the same thing over and over again, and you being satisified or too tried to become better)

        April 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
      • KCGIRL

        Don't be stupid borris..not every slave (even in the 1800's) was black. and that is pretty much what they are saying because if they both give 50% to taxes, and you do that math correctly, that would add up to the pre-tax income of one person, hence the labor for free comments.

        June 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  4. Larry B

    WHAT! How self-centered are you to in any way liken yourself to someone who is trafficked as a slave. Ok, tell you what, cast off your burdens of suburban life and move to the ivory cost and pick coco for chocolate. Oh, you don't have to worry bout your taxes; you don't get paid. You don't have to worry about any other issues; you life is not yours.

    Your tax issues are a legitimate gripe, but DO NOT belong in this forum. You have a choice, be poor or smart enough to be rich. Otherwise shut up and this this venue be about those who are literally enslaved and tortured have a stage.

    Anything other that yielding to those who truly need physical help is selfish, no-account, self-absorbed narcissistic and down right rude.

    April 7, 2011 at 4:20 am | Reply
    • Poke Weed

      U miss EVN's whole point.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  5. Palm

    You ARE self-centered! Pay your taxes without all the crying. You should be proud you can pay taxes. Your conceit is enormous. Can't you get beyond yourself and do something for the common good? You are inept at community spirit. I know we can not count on you for help of any kind, even when the nation needs help. And I suppose you also call your self religious. You disgust me.

    April 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Reply
    • Poke Weed

      Give him a break you ole hanging judge.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Reply
    • KCGIRL

      So you like working for only $.50 or $.6 on the dollar?? GREAT!!! Can you cover my tax burden as well? Because I personally would tike to put that money towards my education rather then some stranger's lazy butt who is to stupid to get off the couch, put on a clean shirt, and look for job.

      June 20, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  6. Sandra S

    What is odd is that the price of a slave has gone way down and yet the number of slaves today is miniscule to what there was 200 years ago. You would think that it would be the other way. You have a better chance of being murdered in this world than becoming a slave.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Reply
    • Kate

      That is not true. Kevin Bales estimates that there are 32 million slaves in the world today. The slave trade is amongst the fastest growing areas of criminal activity. It is only behind drug trafficking, and is tied with arms trafficking.

      April 8, 2011 at 11:46 am | Reply
  7. Doris

    That's horrible. My calculator is worth more than a human life. I don't think the value of human lives can be really weighed with dollars especially if every person has the potential to be anyone.

    April 8, 2011 at 11:27 am | Reply
    • Poke Weed

      Doris if "everyone had the potential to be anyone" as you say and probably mean that everybody can be and do whatever strikes their fancy, please let me know when you or someone like you is going to play a few downs as the Packers right guard, please. Thanks. The line between compassion and irrational though is always being over stepped.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  8. Bazoing

    I really do appreciate your work, but inaccuracy does not help the cause. Slaves did not sell for much more than a couple of hundred dollars on the coast of Africa. The cost, danger, and cruel loss to death in sailing ships plus profiteering ran the price up orders of magnitude before they were sold in the US. I am also unclear as to whether this refers to made in America slaves in good health and speaking English or fresh off the ship. Were they still being imported in 1809? Keep up the good work, but be careful of the facts or the tea baggers will have a holiday. The latter wants slavery for us all (except them).

    April 10, 2011 at 1:12 am | Reply
  9. Poke Weed

    Yes, slaves were being brought into the US until a few years before the Civil War. However, the trade was illegal under US law after 1808 or so. Brazil took them until the 1850's. England tried to keep slave ships off the high seas after about 1815.

    I notice that all the attention is on African slaves both then and now. Asian and Eurasian slaves have never been out of vogue. Slave comes from the viking trade in slavs.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  10. Canada_Pat

    I think the definition of slavery creates these substantial oddities between the 18th/19th century and today.
    When we think of slavery in that era, it was a fundamental institution in the world economy with enforceable property rights and essentially global acceptance.
    When I see and read these articles about slavery today, it is more of a fringe activity, not to say small, but not part of the mainstream global economy.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Reply
  11. Pat

    The 2009-$90/slave statistic is (a) not believable, given the low quality of the statistical sample, and (b) incomparable to an 18th century statistic, which was a relatively open-market era with good data-reporting, whereas the 21st century market is largely closed and has poor data reporting.
    In fact, the average slave in 2009 is worth several hundred thousand USD, as the average slave is a 11-21 year-old female that can earn $80-$300/hr providing adult services. Even in Mauritania, where slavery is constructively legalized.
    The reporter seems to have a better background in editorializing than economics, and should take some classes in the latter if he/she is really interested in ameliorating the human condition.
    However, if selling print and click-streams is more important, then my criticism is likely misplaced.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  12. Brandon

    $90 for a slave? I'd like to see the facts on this one. I think the author is confusing the cost of coming into the country via trafficking with actual "slavery". The author seems to suggest that a job in the U.S. is slavery. However, the person is probably more than willing to get into the country for a stable job.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Reply
  13. CJ

    creative math anyone?

    June 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  14. Mary

    Define the word SLAVE! Some people may take this as something else. We are talking about many categories here. Break down the percentage of each, and put them in its own category. This way there will not be any confusion. Most are women and children being sold for prostitution...

    June 20, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Reply
  15. MM

    From Easy Rider....

    George: I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. 'Course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom, but they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em.
    Billy: Mmmm, well, that don't make 'em runnin' scared.
    George: No, it makes 'em dangerous.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Reply
  16. Bull

    Wow, slaves are really that cheap? Where do we get one? I've got all sorts of housework piling up....

    June 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  17. Annexian

    ONLY $90 for a slave?

    I'd like to get a cute Mexican Senorita and dress her in naughty Maid costume. Then when she gets sassy chain her to the wall and attach alligator clips to the rings I've implanted in her nipples and crank that old alternator...

    Ooohhh sexy....

    Seriously, though, this is just FLUFF.

    Get RID of illegals, we have as many illegals as unemployed. Stop the rich elite from robbing us or it'll soon be foreign tourists coming here to abuse OUR women...

    June 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  18. Lol

    Damn, there's a lot of stupidity on here, primarily from Yanks I gather?

    Lets be clear – Asian and European slaves did not give "the West" their wealth, so to criticise the emphasis of African enslavement is disingenuous at best. Did Chinese SLAVES build the White House? Did European SLAVES provide the basis of the American and European economy up until abolition? How many Asians and Europeans had a 2-7 life expectancy because they were consciously worked to death to keep labour costs down? How many Asian and European slaves reached their market on a journey that killed nearly 50%? Africa cannot be negated from modernity, try as you may.

    Secondly – do Any of you really believe that enslaved Africans cost anything near FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS? WHat society was selling ONE slave for that much and when? For that price you could chart a private ship FULL of Africans to the New World in the 16th, 17th, 18th centuries. Some Africans could be secured for a few horses, for a few barrels of rum, etc. Even FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS is an over estimation.

    Third – Calling women trafficked today SLAVES is problematic and does nothing to help their plight. Call it what it is, the illegal traffic in Women which governments turn a blind eye to. Calling it Slavery doesn't locate it or substantiate it, and just makes the whole issue vague. People calling over-taxation SLAVEY is inaccurate, and it takes away from your argument. Stop leaning on what happened to AFRICA to make your point. Call it what it is – over-taxation – child exploitation – the traffic of women etc – HOW STUPID IS IT to label all these wide issues "Slavery" ???

    Finally – For a family aiming to reach Europe from Iraq or Afghanistan, the average cost is a YEARS salary for a middle class worker, so just the cost of travel to arrive as an illegal immigrant is Thousands. Where does the 90 dollars figure come from?

    This CNN soft-news type bulls*** is part of the reason why so many people are walking around stupid today. Even if the numbers were correct, you cannot compare a modern illegal trade with a past state-sanctioned trade deemed fundamental to the financial development. The French Revolution was fought over the bourgeois reaping all profits from Saint Domingue prior to 1789. The English Revolution was driven by desire for Commonwealth and Empire, and we all know what the North/South American Revolution was primarily fought for. So lumping the horrific trade of Women and Children today with THAT history doesn't help their plight as sex workers in the Developed and Under-developed world.

    Calling it modern day slavery, and calling so-called activists "Abolitionists" is FOLLY and a step backwards. Laws already exist outlawing People Trafficking, whats needed is ENFORCEMENT, and that won't happen comparing Sex Workers with 16th 17th 18th century Africans worked to death over 2-7 years – You don't compare the two.

    True, 9/11 was a terrorist attack, but it wasn't HIROSHIMA, was it? And evoking images of Hiroshima in relation to 9/11 would be stupid and.... oh wait.

    July 1, 2011 at 7:15 am | Reply
  19. SecretSamadhi

    All you people complaining about the price of a slave. You conservative should be happy, this is free market at it best, no government interference, rules regulations,and the one that are in place are not really enforced. this is a great example of laissez faire economics that the Republicans speak about.

    August 4, 2011 at 11:14 am | Reply
  20. Nick Dedham

    Where do you get data like that? It seems simple but that is sheer confusion. It's 40K in todays dollars BUT 90 dollars in todays dollars. If you take that in with any brain LEFT. Leave it to CNN.

    November 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Reply
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  25. Travis

    I see these figures but nobody ever tells me where I can buy a $90 slave online. They can also help by suggesting a headhunter that will find me a good overseer.

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