Wildcatting is a stripper’s guide to boom towns like Williston, North Dakota. It’s insightful on the principal-agent problem, why natural resources aren’t a geographic blessing even when they aren’t a curse, selection effects and immigration (“ I never met a boring stripper in Williston.”) and small town life.
I am thinking of asking my IO students to explain why stripper pay structure changed with the boom:
It took a long time for things to quickly change. First, Whispers started booking four dancers. Then a second club, Heartbreakers, opened right next door, and they didn’t even cap the number of dancers that could work. Not only that, they didn’t pay the dancers — and instead charged them a whopping $120 flat stage fee. Whispers upped their game by going to six dancers at some point in 2011. The last time I got a paycheck from them was in February 2012, and then the owner told me they weren’t going to pay dancers at all anymore.
So starting in 2012, instead of getting paid $250–500 a week, depending on the booking, we paid Whispers $120 a night. Instead of keeping $15 from each dance, dancers kept the whole $20.
Strippers are not immune to the great stagnation:
The American worker has never been so efficient in terms of output over hours worked. At the same time, real wages and benefits have plummeted. Prospects are shitty for college graduates and non-graduates alike. Layoffs and cutbacks in previously solid industries protect the profits of an ever-smaller class at the expense of those who produce value. In stripper terms, here’s what that looks like: Lap dances in many places still start at $20, the same price they were in 1990. Customers expect ever-higher levels of contact and performance skill, meaning strippers work harder to earn the $20 or the dollar stage tip that is worth a lot less than it used to be.
…The one big advantage you have if you’re a stripper, though, is the ability to travel to greener pastures. If you would like to have a job in another town, as long as you look good enough for the club’s standards, you’re hired. So those who can, move. When the level of bullshit is too high or the earnings too low, they the hit the road. Same as the men who wind up traveling to work in the oil fields. If you can make $30,000 more a year driving heavy equipment in North Dakota instead of in Louisiana, and you need that money, you go. Is this the logical progression of a service economy? It looks like migrant labor.
…Mobility giveth and mobility taketh away, and while I was grateful to have the freedom to come to the boomtown, I was even more thankful to have the freedom to leave.
The piece is also of interest when read at the meta level.