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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
10,201201562 (3.73)219
Nickel and Dimed is a modern classic that deftly portrays the plight of America's working-class poor. Author Barbara Ehrenreich decides to see if she can scratch out a comfortable living in blue-collar America. What she discovers is a culture of desperation, where workers often take multiple low-paying jobs just to keep a roof overhead.… (more)
  1. 40
    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.
  2. 30
    Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (WoodsieGirl)
    WoodsieGirl: To see how little things change...
  3. 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)
  4. 10
    Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do by Gabriel Thompson (Euryale)
    Euryale: Thompson's work focuses more on the nature of low wage work and the ways immigrants are segregated in certain industries or departments, rather than on housing conditions or whether the wages are sufficient for survival.
  5. 10
    On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane by Emily Guendelsberger (LAKobow)
  6. 10
    Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam W. Shepard (amyblue)
  7. 00
    Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain by James Bloodworth (nessreader)
  8. 00
    Selling Ben Cheever: Back to Square One in a Service Economy by Benjamin Cheever (nessreader)
    nessreader: Both about middle class writers adrift in the service economy and being miserable there.
  9. 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.
  10. 00
    Mcquaig Linda : Canada'S Social Welfare by Linda McQuaig (bhowell)
  11. 03
    Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America by Mike Yankoski (infiniteletters)
  12. 03
    Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki (readysetgo)
    readysetgo: An opposing view to the fatalistic tone of this book.

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» See also 219 mentions

English (194)  Italian (2)  French (2)  All languages (198)
Showing 1-5 of 194 (next | show all)

A writer goes on a mission to walk in the shoes of the working poverty level wage-earnings. The idea sounds awesome but ultimately falls short.

Mostly, the book just seems detached. More like a grad student documenting the mating habits of the fruit fly. Ho-hum. And except for Barbara, most everyone just blended together into some kind of sob story indistinguishable from each other.

The idea is so grand that I would like to see someone else take a stab it.

There are too many holes. Aren't most jobs difficult the first few weeks? Every job must have some kind of learning curve. If nothing else learning new acronyms, finding the bathroom, or just figuring out who the alpha dog is in this new social structure. Then adding in moving and finding one's way around a new town on top of this.

I wanted to like this book. I wanted to cheer Barbara on and develop an appreciation for the working poverty-level wage earning class. But I'm more glad I'm done with the book and can move on to other things. ( )
2 vote wellington299 | Feb 19, 2022 |
An intimate analysis of the working poor told from the point-of-view of an undercover journalist who attempted to live and work for minimum wages in three locations in the United States for three months with minimal assistance. A must read for anyone who has either worked for minimum wage or who has employed someone who does. ( )
  AngelaLam | Feb 8, 2022 |
Maybe 3 1/2 stars. It was copyrighted in 2001 and I'm reading it in 2020 so most of the information and statistics are over 20 years old. My fault - for waiting so long to read it, but it's distracting and annoying. Ehrenreich's tone is also condescending and her "experiment" has too many loopholes to be very scientific. There are some amusing anecdotes and occasional a-ha moments but you can get a better, more current story by reading [b:Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive|39218350|Maid Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive|Stephanie Land|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1573822660l/39218350._SY75_.jpg|60800466] . And, unfortunately, you know from the beginning what Ehrenreich is going to find right? Good people laboring under extremely low wages and high housing costs. Even the last chapter, "Evaluation" is mostly just complaining about how badly off the poor are. Certainly they are badly off, but I guess I was hoping for a bit more .... evaluation .... of Ehrenreich's own personal experiment. ( )
  Jeff.Rosendahl | Sep 21, 2021 |
This was one of THE WORST books I've ever read. As my father put it: "this book was written by a loser author who doesn't know what she's talking about". So Barbara here went 'undercover' working low-wage jobs to basically see what it's like. And, wow, it's hard! Shocking, I know. She's just condescending throughout the book and the whole entire thing is basically her acting like a victim.

Going into this, she made 3 rules for herself:
1. She wouldn't fall back on her education/normal job skills
2. She would take the highest paying job offered to her
3. She would take the cheapest "acceptable" accommodations she could find

She also said she will never go homeless or without food because she will have her 'real' ATM card with her at all times. She also keeps her laptop to connect to her 'real life.'

First off, her definition of 'acceptable' is much different from a typical persons definition. If I was in a low-wage job, I'd probably find someone to room with and help pay rent, does she do that? No. She also always has a car with her, which she pats for with her 'real life money,' not any wages earned by her low-wage job, and she does this on her own with no medical problems. It already feels like she's cheating on her experiment! That could perhaps all be forgiven if she wasn't so vain. She's completely full of herself and her superiority complex makes for a REALLY obnoxious book.

Here is what really gets me: she acts shocked at what should be really obvious things. She's shocked that no employer questions her background and asks why someone with a degree needs a 'poor person job'- of course not, they just want your labor and 'smart people' fall onto hard times too! She's shocked no one found her hobby of writing to be strange. It's like she expects them all to be illiterate/uneducated with no aspirations of their own! Some people just get into bad circumstances and get stuck in low-wage jobs! Again, she's shocked that no one recognizes her as 'educated'- again, of course not! No one gives her a job at first- again, she was shocked even though she has no physical labor experience on her resume. Lastly, she's amazed that during her undercover work her coworkers were never slackers, drug addicts, or thieves. She is absolutely amazed that these people actually work hard and do their very best. How 1% are you Barbara??

So the synopsis is that she tries to live on minimum wages in Florida, Maine, and Minnesota. IF the above rules didn't indicate her lack of resolution to actually commit to the bit, she cheats even more. Staying for free in rich friend's apartments, using her old life's money to pay for a motel etc. It's just seems to completely defeat the purpose of her experiment. She has a slight health problem in Maine and immediately calls her fancy doctor in Florida who gives her expensive medicine that she pays for with her old life funds and not the minimum wages she's supposed to be living on.

To top it all off she's pretty upper-class stereotypical and downright mean as well. She considers experimenting in California as well, and I quote, "but warnings about the heat and the allergies put me off, not to mention my worry that the Latinos might be hogging all the crap jobs and substandard housing for themselves, as the often do." HOGGING. CRAP. JOBS. Like they WANT to be in that situation. If they could make a better lives for themselves I bet they frickin' would! But they have to work all day just to put food on the table (figuratively-- there might not actually be a physical table).

Her horrible methods aside, she does make two good points (though news articles make the same ones). 1) 1/5 of homeless people have full or part-time jobs. 2) Unemployment is not causing poverty, the low-wages that exploitative companies pay is what's causing poverty.

TL;DR? Long Story Short: Pass on this flaming piece of trash book. ( )
  Nikki_Sojkowski | Aug 26, 2021 |
Very Thought provoking book!

This book has opened my eyes to many things that don’t typically get more than a passing thought in my life. I really feel like this book should be required reading for high school and college students. If you haven’t experienced trying to live off of minimum wage you just can not understand the difficulties that are faced on a daily basis. ( )
  daisydil | Aug 15, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 194 (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 (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara Ehrenreichprimary authorall editionscalculated
Guglielmina, PierreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gustafsson, KerstinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piven, Frances Foxsecondary 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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Nickel and Dimed is a modern classic that deftly portrays the plight of America's working-class poor. Author Barbara Ehrenreich decides to see if she can scratch out a comfortable living in blue-collar America. What she discovers is a culture of desperation, where workers often take multiple low-paying jobs just to keep a roof overhead.

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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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