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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.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,232188515 (3.73)210
  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
    Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam W. Shepard (amyblue)
  6. 00
    Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance (Othemts)
  7. 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.
  8. 00
    Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain by James Bloodworth (nessreader)
  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. 02
    Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki (readysetgo)
    readysetgo: An opposing view to the fatalistic tone of this book.
  12. 03
    Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America by Mike Yankoski (infiniteletters)

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» See also 210 mentions

English (185)  Italian (1)  All languages (186)
Showing 1-5 of 185 (next | show all)
A nice piece of writing, but I suppose I expected more. Barbara Ehrenreich, a woman with a Ph.D in Biology decides to go and write about the Working Poor in America. She goes and gets entry level jobs in three different states with caveats. She tries to get homes that are acceptably classed, but not too badly. She doesn't feel like starving, and some other things. Like she has a bank account and savings but only uses it in dire circumstances.

So she starts in Florida, the place near where she lives, goes to Maine, and then to Minnesota. She does many jobs but is surprised that though it is supposed to be 'unskilled' labor, a lot of the jobs require concentration and learning things. Even back then she acknowledged the wage gap, and figured that people would eventually go for living wages. So it is interesting in being foresighted, but it feels rather hollow to me.

So in all, the book was okay but I didn't like it as much as I though I would. At least it is short though. I mean, there's only so much you can go and write about a minimum wage job. Mostly it's about the relationships she makes and stuff like that. In the end this is only a project, so it's like a short glance at something that people live every day. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Your library, In Process
  oceanview | Jun 10, 2019 |
not a great book. very hypocritical. easy read and interesting insights into being a house cleaner, server, and walmart employee (this part i thought was the most interesting). but she goes off about drug users/addicts and then later on goes off about how she can't find work because she can't pass a drug test. she goes into minute details of food/homeware costs, yet never mentions spending $50 for a bag of weed!

interesting figure - "In 1990, the federal government spent $11.7 million to test 29,000 federal employees. Since only 153 tested positive, the cost of detecting a single drug user was $77,000." ( )
  pizzadj2 | May 27, 2019 |
Way back in 1998, author Ehrenreich decided to go and try and live like the lower class did. Allowing herself a car and a $1000 in startup money, she went out to land a working class job- waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing home aide, Walmart associate- and survive on the wages. She discovered how wages didn’t cover rents, or much food, or any way to relax. Most people were working two or even three jobs just to survive. Most often, there was no affordable housing near any source of employment, and there was no affordable transportation. If a worker got ill or injured, they had no option other than to just keep on working. The working class can’t afford to miss work, even if the doctor visit was covered by insurance- and it usually wasn’t back then. Affordable child care simply didn’t exist.

Of course, she wasn’t stuck in this situation. She could tap out at any time and go back to her normal existence. She didn’t live with the knowledge that she would have to live this existence for the rest of her life, with no vacation, no retirement. So she didn’t develop the despair and depression that plagues so many working class people. But she noticed it and reported it. Many people have torn down the author for ‘slumming’, because she could leave, but I feel she wrote an important book because many people were unaware of the situation the working class faced. One person could scarcely cover the entire problem. I did find some things irritating- her fear that she wouldn’t be able to ‘pass’ as a working class person, that her education would out her. Guess what- not every working class person speaks poorly, and there are such things as libraries that allow even the poor to read. One thing that I feel is important about this book is that it showed to the upper classes (if they choose to read it- hah) that even one of their own, a hard working educated woman, couldn’t make it in the system. So much for calling the working class ‘lazy’!

These days, there is a lot more awareness of the problems of the working poor- but I’m not sure there is any more being done about it. Rents are higher, gasoline costs are higher, but wages are the same as they were 20 years ago. There are still huge numbers of people without health insurance. Perhaps it’s time for a reissue of this book, with an update? Five stars. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Feb 26, 2019 |
A journalist tries to live off of poverty-low wage jobs. She creates the identity that her kids are grown and she's just entering the work force after being a stay at home mom.
She didn't use resume's, but she did start out with cash savings and moved to 3 states to do this experiment.
Part of the book was mundane and there aren't any ground shattering discoveries if any discoveries at all. What did she prove?
I think the author believes everyone should be paid the same wage. What the woman may not know, understand or care about is, some people are quite satisfied to "settle" and never aspire to anything more than low wage jobs.
They may gripe and complain or play the victim, (some don't), but they don't aspire or attempt to do more to do better. ( )
  VhartPowers | Dec 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 185 (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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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 7 descriptions

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