Are Lap Dancers Really Smarter Than the Average Brit?

Our stereotype of strip club workers is that they don't have a lot on the ball. But a new study of UK lap dancers shows they are more educated than the typical Brit.

Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate student, I frequented a local bar with my friends that we liked because it had cheap long-island ice tea. It also happened to have strippers, which none of us paid much attention to. (We really were there just for the cheap drinks.)  That all ended one afternoon when one of the guys in our group looked up in horror as a girl stepped onto the stage; he slunk into his chair and whispered, “That’s my lab partner!” 


I tell this story to my students, and sometimes wonder if some of them are paying their way through school by taking off their clothes. I suspect they might tell me if they were (one has already confessed to working the phones in an escort agency and another works in a bath house), but none have so far. 

Many lap dancers are university students, according to UK-based research released last week, and in fact one in four has already completed a university degree.Researchers at Leeds University spent a year interviewing 300 lap dancers and found that one in four have completed a university degree and one in three are engaged in some form of education (including 6% who are funding post-graduate degrees).

I find this result surprising, and not just because I wouldn’t expect to find so many educated women in a profession that pays no wage premium to education. The reason I find this surprising is that the university completion rates in the UK are very low by North American standards; only one in five residents of the UK between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed a degree.*

This means that not only are strippers better educated than you'd expect given the nature of the job but they are better educated than the average British resident.

Another surprising element of the survey is that the women reported a high level of job satisfaction. If you look at data from US-based General Social Survey, which asks individuals how satisfied they are with their jobs, employment in bars and night clubs ranks extremely low in terms of jobs satisfaction. In fact, bartending is on the list of the 10 least gratifying jobs.

So here is what I am playfully thinking. Firms give workers casual dress days to increase worker moral. How about naked bartending? Perhaps letting workers come to work in the buff will increase their job satisfaction. Maybe that is not enough though; maybe you need to let them wriggle their bums in one of the patron’s faces from time to time. After all, a happy worker is a productive worker.

Thanks my classmate Ryan Davies for sending this research in my direction.

*Global Higher Education Rankings: Affordability and Accessibility in Comparative Perspective, 2005

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