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Republicans are Watching the Poles

It appears that workers in at least one industry will be benefiting from an income redistribution from the wealthy next month – strippers in Tampa Bay. According to The New York Times, club owners in that region are ramping up hiring in anticipation of a massive increase in demand for adult entertainment the weekend of the Republican National Convention.

It isn’t that surprising that when 50,000 convention goers get together, in a town that is well known for its adult entertainment industry, that the clubs will be hopping, but this group of partiers are projected to make this weekend particularly lucrative.

According to Angela Spencer at the Association of Club Executives, the trade association for strip clubs, when they compared spending by participants at the Democratic Convention in Denver with participants at the Republican convention in New York they found that Republicans spent three times as much as the Democrats — $150 compared to $50.

Now The New York Times makes it pretty clear that these statistics were collected from an informal survey of strip club owners operating in those cities, so no one should take this as evidence that individual Republicans spend more in strip clubs than do Democrats.

And since the data is measured on a per-patron basis there is absolutely no evidence at all that total spending for adult entertainment at GOP conventions is higher than it is at Democrat conventions. In fact it could just as easily be lower depending on how many participants visited the clubs.

Add to that the observation that the Denver convention was in 2008 – an interesting year for strip clubs as women, liberated from their regular employment by the recession, joined the profession in droves – and we should all recognize that without knowing how clubs price services we really have nothing to say about Republican versus Democrat consumption of adult entertainment at conventions.

Many years ago, when I was still a student, a Toronto cab driver told me that when the economists come to town for conventions the sex workers all take the weekend off. I have been to enough of these meeting to know that isn’t exactly true (I remember one conference where a colleague joined us at the bar at the end of the evening proclaiming “I can’t believe how cheap a blow job is in this town!”).

And while I know that isn’t very good evidence of how economists behave — just like this evidence on Republican strip club attendance — it does make a good story later.