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Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in…
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Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001)

by Barbara Ehrenreich

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,456164363 (3.74)185
  1. 30
    The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy by Lisa Dodson (zhejw)
    zhejw: In the 1990s, Barbara Ehrenreich goes "undercover" to discover how low wage workers (don't) get by. In the next decade, Lisa Dodson tells the stories of some such workers and their children, but focuses her time on those who supervise and serve them, subverting the system to help.… (more)
  2. 20
    Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado (4leschats)
    4leschats: Both deal with the cyclical nature of poverty and its ability to trap people.
  3. 20
    Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (WoodsieGirl)
    WoodsieGirl: To see how little things change...
  4. 10
    Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam W. Shepard (amyblue)
  5. 11
    Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States by Pete Jordan (Othemts)
    Othemts: A pair of books that show the conditions for the worker in America's least desirable jobs.
  6. 00
    Mcquaig Linda : Canada'S Social Welfare by Linda McQuaig (bhowell)
  7. 01
    Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki (readysetgo)
    readysetgo: An opposing view to the fatalistic tone of this book.
  8. 03
    Pe sub poduri by Mike Yankoski (infiniteletters)
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» See also 185 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
What started out as an idea for an article for Harper's quickly blossomed into a full blown New York Times bestselling book. In 1998 Barbara Ehrenreich set out to research how anyone lived on minimum wage and as she put it, "the only way to find out was to get out there and get my hands dirty" (p 4). So, at a time when welfare reform was sending millions of women back into the workforce, for three months writer-by-trade, PhD educated Ehrenreich joined the unskilled labor force to see what it was all about. The emphasis of the experiment might have been on surviving the economy of 1998 but a byproduct of that experiment was the truth that the further down the class ladder one lived, the more invisible one became. Ehrenreich tried her hand at being a waitress, a maid, a healthcare aide, and a Wal-Mart associate. It's this last position that was a real eye opener for me.
In the back of my mind I wondered how "honest" Ehrenreich's experiment really was. No matter how terrible her situation she always knew she could escape it and at times, she fell back on her "real" life. When she had a skin ailment she used her real life connections to get medication without seeing a doctor. ( )
  SeriousGrace | May 24, 2016 |
This book was part of the assigned reading for a Gender in Economics class that I took in college. Surprisingly, it was a pretty good read. The author went undercover in order to test several of the theories about the "working poor." She intentionally lied about her college degrees and other work experience while applying for low wage positions in several different cities. The story that she told to her employers was that she was a middle aged woman returning to the work force after being a house wife and mother for many years. Her goal in each city was to keep the job for at least 30 days-- and at the end see if she was able to "make ends meet."

The book is insightful and humorous-- and she succeeds in helping readers to adjust the way that they perceive the working poor in the United States. ( )
  HSContino | May 20, 2016 |
A deeply disturbing book about the working life of people that we too often take for granted. ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 25, 2016 |
Barbara Ehrereich's novel is a first personal account of her experience working as an undercover journalist who is investigating the impact of the 1996 welfare and reform act. She is primarily seeking to experience the lives of the working poor. For example, the working poor often live in motel rooms instead of apartments because they cannot afford the security deposit. Ehrereich uncovers social problems of the poor that often make things like securing shelter and food more expensive for them than other workers. Ehrereich discusses the fatigue, pain, and stress of unskilled, low-wage workers. She contends that low-wage workers do not work for themselves, rather they work for us and there should be a new equality in wages. Although the novel has received sharp criticism for inaccuracies, excepts from this text are useful in discussions about the American ideals of equality, justice, and security. I often use excepts of the text with the speeches and literary works of Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, and Benjamin Banneker. The novel adds modern day insight when we read short stories and poetry by Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Richard Rodriguez. Since many teens are employed in minimum wage jobs, I like to use this text as a platform for a debate regarding minimum wage standards.

Overview of Ehrenreich's Project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nb2nrSrU5Z0
America Low Wage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmqUEIT6QBI
Raising the Minimum Wage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mohzpt_HhME
History of the Minimum Wage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQE0ldkiKo0 ( )
  sgemmell | Apr 21, 2016 |
Is is the best written book? No. But it is one of the only books that actually examines modern working-class life. I read it all in one sitting and walked about furious, sad and depressed about the future.
Good times! ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
We have Barbara Ehrenreich to thank for bringing us the news of America's working poor so clearly and directly, and conveying with it a deep moral outrage and a finely textured sense of lives as lived.
 

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara Ehrenreichprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guglielmina, PierreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gustafsson, KerstinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tamminen, LeenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mostly out of laziness, I decide to start my low-wage life in the town nearest to where I actually live, Key West, Florida, which, with a population of about 25,000 is elbowing its way up to the status of a genuine city.
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Book description
Very interesting, appalling narration and discussion of the writer's foray into living as does America's employed underclass, the working poor. Learning to do new tasks at each new poorly paid position, knowing no one, and unable to pay rent, eat, and take care of the bills is the daily norm for millions in this position and Ms. Ehrenreich tells it -- and shows it -- like it is.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805063897, Paperback)

Essayist and cultural critic Barbara Ehrenreich has always specialized in turning received wisdom on its head with intelligence, clarity, and verve. With some 12 million women being pushed into the labor market by welfare reform, she decided to do some good old-fashioned journalism and find out just how they were going to survive on the wages of the unskilled--at $6 to $7 an hour, only half of what is considered a living wage. So she did what millions of Americans do, she looked for a job and a place to live, worked that job, and tried to make ends meet.

As a waitress in Florida, where her name is suddenly transposed to "girl," trailer trash becomes a demographic category to aspire to with rent at $675 per month. In Maine, where she ends up working as both a cleaning woman and a nursing home assistant, she must first fill out endless pre-employment tests with trick questions such as "Some people work better when they're a little bit high." In Minnesota, she works at Wal-Mart under the repressive surveillance of men and women whose job it is to monitor her behavior for signs of sloth, theft, drug abuse, or worse. She even gets to experience the humiliation of the urine test.

So, do the poor have survival strategies unknown to the middle class? And did Ehrenreich feel the "bracing psychological effects of getting out of the house, as promised by the wonks who brought us welfare reform?" Nah. Even in her best-case scenario, with all the advantages of education, health, a car, and money for first month's rent, she has to work two jobs, seven days a week, and still almost winds up in a shelter. As Ehrenreich points out with her potent combination of humor and outrage, the laws of supply and demand have been reversed. Rental prices skyrocket, but wages never rise. Rather, jobs are so cheap as measured by the pay that workers are encouraged to take as many as they can. Behind those trademark Wal-Mart vests, it turns out, are the borderline homeless. With her characteristic wry wit and her unabashedly liberal bent, Ehrenreich brings the invisible poor out of hiding and, in the process, the world they inhabit--where civil liberties are often ignored and hard work fails to live up to its reputation as the ticket out of poverty. --Lesley Reed

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:02 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- could be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on six to seven dollars an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered as a woefully inexperienced homemaker returning to the workforce. So began a grueling, hair raising, and darkly funny odyssey through the underside of working America. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, Ehrenreich worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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