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The Stripper Index: An unorthodox recession measurement

While there are several official ways to measure a recession, the stripper index can be a unique indicator to see where the wind’s blowing.

A woman with short cropped hair standing next to a brick wall with neon signs illuminated behind her. Despite the recession she is fashionably dressed with sunglasses and a fluffy jacket.

Are we in a recession? Not officially, no, though 68% of experts agree that the American economy will be in a recession by the second half of 2024. Normally, economic indicators used by experts include measures of macroeconomic performance, such as Gross Domestic Product, consumption, investment and international trade. As well as measures of stability like central government budgets, prices, the money supply and balance of payments. 

Recently, however, the internet has brought to light an unofficial, and slightly unorthodox economic index. Dubbed “The Stripper Index”,  is an index that says if strippers, who rely on cash tips in their line of work, see significantly less money for an extended period of time, then the economy is experiencing strain. In fairness, economists do measure consumer spending as an official economic index, so this is essentially looking at consumer spending on a niche, micro-economic level

A dancer quoted in The Guardian says that her income was down by half in December YoY, and heard similar stories from dancers in Vegas. “They’re like the oracles we consult,” she says. “If Vegas girls aren’t making money, no one’s making money.”  

Strippers are struggling right now, according to several women working in the industry. It’s a good thing Palmar knows how to hustle, because lately the clubs have been more like meditation studios than ragers. According to an interview with a Florida entertainer, Palmar, done by Glamour, “People were making more money [during the height of] COVID—stimulus money, unemployment, whatever—and now they’re making less, and also rent is higher and gas prices are higher,” she says. “People are suddenly realizing they don’t have money.”

Palmar isn’t the only one feeling the strain, either. A Twitter user by the name @botticellbimbo tweeted “the strip club is sadly a leading indicator and i can promise y’all we [are] in a recession lmao”. She followed up that Tweet with one that stated “me getting stock alerts just to decide whether it’s worth it to go to work”.

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Another entertainer with the handle @agave_baby chimed in “Nah fr reading all these articles journalists and economists are like we’re not in a recession we might not even get one this year or next… like the club is dead babe wym” A third entertainer, with the handle @Ivy_wylder joined in and tweeted “When my whale clients are asking what bottles are on special you know we have a problem”. 

Technically, the men still come to the clubs, but they are tipping very little, or nothing at all. @Botticellibimbo continues, “[As strippers] we always have to be aware of fluctuations in the market and how upper class white men are behaving and spending their money,” she said. “Ask ANY stripper we have to be aware of how rich people are going to spend their money, stripping is betting on how the rich spend their money. You’re gonna tell me that isn’t just a stock exchange?”

She also said that end-of-year bonuses “make up a large part of strip club revenue”, emphasizing the connection between the venues and the condition of the market. Another entertainer, [unnamed] shared her own personal story of when she worked at a gentlemen’s club in 2007, prior to the recession of 2008 shared her story down story from 2007 in which she told a pal that “the club was way too dead for way too long” and to pull her money out of stocks. “I thought she was crazy. But she did it, and she ended up almost doubling her money,” she said. 

Strippers are not the only economic index that Americans can turn to in order to be clued into the economy. Many quirky (and weirdly accurate) economic indicators help forecast the economy. For example, if an AFC team wins the Superbowl, the stock market will decline the following year. While there doesn’t seem to be a direct explainable connection, this has an accuracy rate of 73%. Or the lipstick indicator, as proposed by Estee Lauder, which says women who use cosmetics have less money to purchase nice makeup for all areas of their face and instead just buy more lipsticks to help tie their looks together. The lipstick effect was a reliable barometer during the post-9/11 recession when Estée Lauder reported an uptick in lipstick sales.

Another economic index, dubbed the “Fluffy Puppy Index” says that if pet owners stop spending money on their pet besides the necessities that it takes to keep the pet alive, the economy isn’t doing well.

There’s even a Mosquito Index, which can predict how many properties are left unattended and therefore how the housing market is doing. Mosquito bites increase as more homes sit empty and ill maintained. With higher grass and disheveled properties, back yards and swimming pools become breeding grounds for the pest. In 2009, the number of pools that had to be treated by the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department jumped 60% from 2007, as foreclosed properties sat unattended. However, this metric may have become less useful as banks delayed foreclosing on homes in an effort to preserve the housing market.  

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Despite the discretion of economists, we as consumers and participants in the economy can draw inferences from every day things to continue to stay clued in on the state of the American economy. 

Nicole is a recent graduate (okay fine, a recent-ish graduate) of Texas State University-San Marcos where she received a BA in Psychology. When she's not doing freelance writing, she's doing freelance Public Relations. When she's not working, she's hanging out with dogs or her friends - in that order. Nicole watches way too much Netflix and is always quoting The Office. She has an obsession with true crime and sloths.


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