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

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

by Barbara Ehrenreich

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7,893146420 (3.74)162
Recently added byHsLbry6441BVDr, TheBookStop, DamonSuede, setherfan91, e-zReader, dblang, awebba, private library, kwbridge
Legacy LibrariesJack Layton
  1. 20
    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
    Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (WoodsieGirl)
    WoodsieGirl: To see how little things change...
  3. 10
    Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam W. Shepard (amyblue)
  4. 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.
  5. 00
    Mcquaig Linda : Canada'S Social Welfare by Linda McQuaig (bhowell)
  6. 01
    Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki (readysetgo)
    readysetgo: An opposing view to the fatalistic tone of this book.
  7. 03
    Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America by Mike Yankoski (infiniteletters)

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» See also 162 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
Not worth reading and would not recommend ( )
  rchmccaulley | Jul 26, 2014 |
I couldn't get through the first few chapters of this book. The first words that come to mind are 'elitist' and 'uppity'. Out of touch is another description of the author and her hypothesis.

The idea of putting yourself in another's shoes is intriguing, to literally 'walk a mile in someones shoes' but it seems the author went into it with too much sympathy and preconceived notions, blind to all the other shoes that don't fit her Utopian criteria.

Personal responsibility, pride in ownership and striving to better oneself are doctrines more fitting to people who find themselves in the lower economic range. To be sure, in my experience, one is not doomed to remain in any particular class, nor guaranteed to remain at the top.

Couldn't get rid of this one fast enough. ( )
  readysetgo | Apr 1, 2014 |
I have been meaning to read this book since I heard about it on NPR when it first came out but there are so many books to read, and so little time. It is a wonderful, fast read and very informative if you have never dropped in to one of these neighborhood gulags or known anyone who has been stuck there.
As I read, I kept thinking that of course she can face it every day, she has the extra comfort of knowing she can always leave when it is too much or she has enough information, whichever happens first. She has never had to deal with the panic that comes with a sick child and knowing that your job is on the line if you consider for a moment not choosing your employment over your child's well-being. She has never known the gut-wrenching fear that a new noise in your old car quickly delivers to the core of your being. I would compare it to watching a movie of a roller coaster and thinking you have the whole experience.
That said though, it takes a gutsy lady to take on a subject that almost no one wants to talk about, and I see that she has updated editions. I will have to read those and see if she revisited any job sites or employees and certainly the latest government figures should be interesting to look at no matter how positively they might be skewed. Thanks and gratitude to Barbara Ehrenreich for taking the time out to suffer a little and write about it. ( )
  PhyllisHarrison | Feb 9, 2014 |
I read this about 10 years ago, and then saw the play based on her work. At the time, I thought her work was brilliant. Of course, I was fresh out of college, full to the brim with ideas about life, none of which had any touch with reality. Now, with ten years of real world experience in my brain, I realize Ehrenreich's work is highly flawed and lopsided. The main thing that bothered me, was while congratulating herself on "living like the poor" she refused to live like them! She had to have a car and bought herself wine and $30 khaki pants. She refused jobs because she was "tired" or didn't want to do them. She constantly complained about not having TV or AC or books. She also seemed to think all supervisors were evil, as if they sat around calculating ways to dehumanize their workers. It never occurred to her the supervisors were in a similar position or to offer any kindness to them. She also complained ALL the time about drug tests. This shows a complete naivety when it comes to human nature.
In the end, I think Ehrenreich's idea was a good one, but she executed it all wrong and spent to much time complaining about her lack of comforts and how hard things were, instead of trying to actually understand what poverty is. ( )
1 vote empress8411 | Jan 23, 2014 |
Nickel and Dimed is a work of investigative journalism in which author Ehrenreich travels to a few different American locales under contrived circumstances to discover what it's like to live on the almost poverty-level wages many American workers earn at their occupations. During stints as a waitress in Key West, a maid in Maine, and a Wal-Mart "associate" in Minnesota, Ehrenreich discovers that even given an edge of a lump sum of cash to start with and a car, living on the poverty-level wages millions of Americans are expected to subsist on is no easy feat. Lodged in pay-by-the-week motels, suffering from the prodigious aches and pains that accompany low-wage labor, sometimes with hardly enough food to get by, and often even in fear for her safety, Ehrenreich offers a very enlightening look into the lives of the working poor.

The book itself is compelling. Ehrenreich's writing style is extremely engaging and has such a great flow to it that it's actually hard to put down, a quality I'm always looking for in non-fiction and rarely finding. The book is also peppered with footnotes elaborating on Ehrenreich's experience in the low-wage world with hard data related to low wage workers both in the locales in which she works and across the United States.

As for the content, some of it is truly eye-opening while some of it is borderline offensive to anybody who is working or ever has worked a low-wage job. Ehrenreich exposes the pitfalls that come with having to take a job that is nearby even if it pays peanuts because you don't have a car (and likely never will at the wage you're making). She reveals that many low-wage workers, because they don't have a month's rent and security deposit can't ever get a real apartment and are forced to rely on flea-bag pay-by-the-week motels, sometimes cramming whole families into a motel room or even a car if funds for the motel run out. She shows how hourly employees are subject to the whims of mostly useless middle managers who demand a level of work that is practically slavish. She delves into the demeaning world where drug tests are required, there is constant (often unwarranted) suspicion of worker drug use and theft, and worker belongings are subject to search when they are on the premises all for a paltry $7.00/hour, if that. Ehrenreich discovers that low-wage workers are virtually invisible to the people they're serving as waitresses or maids and almost hopelessly trapped in a hamster-wheel of never having enough to get by, much less any savings to rely on in times of crisis.

On the other hand, PhD-holding Ehrenreich seems to need her book as much as any of the rest of us privileged folks. If you've ever had to take a job as a waitress or a maid or a big-box store employee in your life, you might find yourself more than a little offended by Ehrenreich's surprise at the fact that "even" low-wage workers are smart, capable, and take pride in their work. While it's easy to relate to Ehrenreich's bewilderment that a co-worker is continuing to work despite injury, she's obviously looking at it from the perspective of someone who has a cushion to fall back on rather than a worker who faces the very real possibility of being out on the street if she can't recover enough to keep her job. Especially irritating to me, however, is Ehrenreich's account of her time working at Wal-Mart, where she flounces in, attempts to stir up some pro-union sentiment, suggests that low-income women all have the same sad haircut, engages in some vaguely patronizing speculation about the lives of the customers who frequent her department, and then seems to more or less glibly return to her life of privilege.

Despite its flaws, though, Nickel and Dimed is a very compelling book and one that everybody in a America whose income allows them some measure of comfort and safety needs to read. If nothing else, it will make you think twice about leaving that bigger tip, not taking the maid that cleans your hotel room for granted, and maybe not wreaking thoughtless havoc on the shelves of the store where you're shopping. More than that, Ehrenreich's book helps us to become re-acquainted with the people our incomes allow and encourage us to ignore and is the kind of book that can and should drive change in a "prosperous" country that is leaving a huge segment of its population behind. ( )
1 vote yourotherleft | Dec 14, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 144 (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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:18 -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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