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

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


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

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3.5/5 (144 evaluări)
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8 hours
Lansat:
Jan 1, 2004
ISBN:
9781436101462
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Descriere

This engrossing piece of undercover reportage is a New York Times best-seller. With nearly a million copies in print, 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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Jan 1, 2004
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9781436101462
Format:
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Despre autor

Barbara Ehrenreich is the bestselling author of over a dozen books, including Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch, Bright-sided, This Land Is Their Land, Dancing In The Streets, and Blood Rites. A frequent contributor to Harper's, The Nation, The New York Times and Time magazine, she lives in Virginia.


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3.6
144 evaluări / 126 Recenzii
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Recenziile cititorilor

  • (1/5)
    I find this book to be incredibly offensive. It's written by the upper middle class for the upper middle class and comes off as condescending, in my opinion. (This, of course, makes me wonder how our studies of "third world" women would appear to them. We are dabblers in their world, can we really understand?)

    Ehrenreich's refusal to give up her entitlements (and indeed her endowments) makes it so she doesn't have to truly experience poverty. She discusses the poverty line in the Evaluation but she only complains that it measures something arbitrary; she doesn't note that what it does not measure are exactly those things that enabled her to walk out of a job when she was upset. She doesn't need the salary, she has other things to fall back on.

    From personal experience I have to say that she got quite a bit wrong. In the Introduction she wonders why when she comes out to some of her coworkers they are neither surprised nor upset, instead only ask her if this means she won't be returning for her next shift. She thinks this is because (a) writing is thought of as a hobby, not a job and (b) that she wasn't successful at fooling them. What she does not ever realize is that they ask that question because that is their primary concern. Someone is going to have to cover that shift and it could be them. It could be a godsend because they need the extra money or it could be a disaster because switched shifts means switched transportation/childcare/and a host of other issues Ehrenreich doesn't seem to acknowledge until the Evaluation.

    I've worked some of those jobs. I've been told that bathroom breaks take me away from my desk and therefore interfere with the work of the business. I've stood on my feet for 11 hour shifts snatching a dinner break on my feet in a corner of the crowded back room. I know that single mother who supports herself and three children on what she makes from working at a convenience store and a gas station and who faces financial ruin if she has to take time off because her middle son is sick. I've had my purse searched every day at the end of every shift despite my years of good work. I've been "honey" and "sweetie" and paid more than I could afford in order to meet a frequently changing dress code.

    One thing that particularly bothered me was when Ehrenreich did not stand up for George, the dishwasher who was accused of theft. She compares working at this restaurant to being in a POW camp and uses that to excuse her lack of courage. She's wrong. The fault was hers, not the job. Plenty of us have seen our coworkers falsely accused and plenty of us have stood up. Don't blame the poor and the oppressed for your own failings.
  • (2/5)
    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."
  • (4/5)
    An informative read as the nation discusses fair wages, equality, and sometimes struggling to just get by. As someone who works two jobs, I identify with these women, who do everything they can to make a dent and keep moving forward.
  • (3/5)
    In 1998, writer Barbara Ehrenreich was looking for a new story to write for Harper's and was having lunch with the editor when the conversation turned to the topic of people going off welfare and going into the workforce and having trouble making it. She said someone should go undercover and investigate this and he said why don't you. So soon she is spending about a month in different locations trying to live off of $6 to $7 dollars. From Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a house cleaner, a nursing home aide, and a Wal-Mart salesperson.In Florida, she went to Key West and tried to get a job working as a hotel worker but that backfired and she instead got a job waiting tables instead of at a hotel chain's restaurant. Her first place was a small rented efficiency that went for $500 which was cheaper and nicer than the trailer she looked at, but it was also a forty-five-minute drive to the eventual job she would get. She learned quickly that the want ads are a bad way to find a job in that employers place them and take applications constantly because there is a high turnover rate. So there may be no opening right then, but there may be one soon. She had waited tables in her youth, but it was hard getting back into the swing of things. She has to learn how to use a computerized screen for ordering food.And she learns a lot about her co-workers, such as Gail who is living in a flop house and paying $250 a month with a male friend who is now hitting on her and driving her crazy but with the rent so cheap how can she go elsewhere? And Claude the Haitian cook who is desperate to get out of the two-room apartment he shares with his girlfriend and two other people. Or Tina who is living with her husband at the Days Inn and paying $60 a night and Joan who lives in her van. Some of these people end up having to rent a hotel room to live in because they can't pay first and last month's rent at an apartment or trailer. Barbara was able to because she budgeted for it in each city she goes to stay.She ends up taking a second waitressing job at Jerry's and tries at first to hold both jobs but just can't do it, so she keeps the job at Jerry's which is paying more at an average of $7.50 an hour in tips. She also gives up her nice efficiency because the drive is eating up too much in gas money and takes a cheap cramped trailer. The other women she works with either work a second job or has a boyfriend or husband to help make it work. But she still needs a second job herself and takes a housekeeping job at a hotel, which is when things begin to fall apart.In Portland, Maine, she puts out many applications and at Merry Maids (Like at Winn-Dixie in Florida and another job she applied for in Maine) she is asked to take a test. This one is the Accutrac personality test. All these tests are designed to find out whether or not you will steal from the company or do drugs, or turn in someone else who has stolen something. The Accutrac also tries to determine your mental health as well. These tests are a joke and can be easily faked. While waiting to get into her new place the Blue Haven Motel that has a kitchen, she also applies to be a dietary aide at a nursing home on the weekends. This involves feeding the elderly and often those with Alzheimer's their meals. If they do not like what is being served she can make them something else they might like such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It's a nice job, until one day when things go wrong. At Merry Maids she learns the truth behind the lives of these women and how they will work with a twisted ankle or operate a vacuum cleaner on their back even if they have arthritis or back problems because they need the job and the money, even if it isn't all that much.In Minnesota, she has an impossible time finding a place to stay. The economy is supposed to be good there and jobs are supposed to be plentiful there and she does find a job at Wal-Mart, which she ends up finding out was a mistake and that she should have taken the other job selling plumbing at a hardware store. At first, she stays in the apartment of a friend of a friend until she can find a place, but that place just won't open up and soon she finds herself living in a run down motel with no kitchen much less a fridge and no screen on the window or a fan for the room. There is a massive shortage in Minnesota of housing for a reasonable price. Everyone is living in motels and there is a shortage in places to stay in motels. Working at Wal-Mart changes her into a person that she does not recognize. A very mean, bitch of a woman. And she recognizes this and wonders if it does this to everyone. She's only making $6 and change and she really needs to take a second job, which is made difficult with Wal-Mart changing her schedule. It is here that you really see her dark side. I like to think that it isn't who she really is, but just a facet of her personality put under a microscope and blown up a million times.One thing that bothers me about her is that she is against drug testing, which the ACLU has always been against them. And back when this book was published they were just starting to require it at various jobs. She tries to make it an invasion of privacy and a "the man" is trying to put you in your place and degrade you. I have found that most people who have problems with drug test use drugs. And that is certainly the case here. To work at either Wal-Mart or the hardware store she has to do a drug test and she isn't sure she can pass it because she had smoked a joint in the recent past and marijuana stays in the system a long while. Of course, there are ways to cleanse it out of your system, which she does and passes the test. She also says that she is worried that her Claritin-D would show up as Chrystal Meth. When you go to get a drug test you tell the technician what drugs you are taking and they will know what is in your system. Besides, I took a drug test in 1997 to get my job as a librarian and I was taking Claritin and the woman told me none of my allergy medicines would have any effect on the test. So she really had nothing to worry about on that front.What else bothered me was some of her racist remarks. She refers to those who live in the Southwest as Chicanos. And she bitches about not being able to go to certain California towns because the Hispanics have hogged all the low wage jobs and all the cheap places to live. It's not a pretty side to her.That being said, she made some very valid points about how we measure poverty. Poverty has always been measured according to how much food costs, but these days half of your pay can go toward your home, apartment, or another dwelling place. They are constantly in danger of being homeless or ending up in a motel if they are lucky. And some of these places know that they can get someone else to replace you easily and they let you know it, so you feel compelled to do whatever they ask and put up with bad working conditions in order to keep the job you so desperately need. While this book was written over fifteen years ago, nothing has really changed. Lots of Wal-Mart workers are on Medicaid and food stamps. People are working more than one job just to barely get by and are not always succeeding. Something needs to change. Maybe that would involve starting with raising the minimum wage. And trying to do something about affordable housing. While Ehrenreich felt as though she did this experiment as a lark and was never in any danger of going hungry (She kept her ATM card for emergencies such as that and anything else.) and she didn't have to worry about feeding anyone else like so many other women do, she does shine a light on an important problem in America today.
  • (1/5)
    Not worth reading and would not recommend
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    Although times and economic conditions have changed since Ehrenreich's experiment (it is hard to imagine that any place suffers from a labor shortage these days), the principles illustrated here stand up.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Although a bit dated, this book paints a very bleak picture for the working poor in the U.S. that, 14 years later, can only be more difficult. Even if you aren't interested in the nuts and bolts of trying to live on a low wage income, her conclusion at the end of the book is well worth getting it from the library.
  • (5/5)
    I'd read bits and pieces before, but this is one worth reading straight through. These are the stories that need to be told again and again until something changes. Brought up memories of my time working as a nursing assistant in a Tucson nursing home, waiting tables (badly), temp agency jobs, etc. Shelve it next to George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London.
  • (3/5)
    Overall, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. It did open my eyes, looking at low wage work in a different way than I probably had previously. However, having worked retail for about 10 years, there were also things that Ehrenreich said at times that kind of grated on me. Granted, I think she is very up front about her own limitations as a low-wage worker, as well as about her preconceptions and her own advantages in life. At the same time, there were still moments where I felt as though she looked down upon low-wage workers, or had perspectives that I didn't quite agree with. Also, while her experiment addressed the ability (or, rather, inability) to survive on minimum wage, she also broached the topic of welfare both at the beginning and end of the book, and yet didn't really give the topic any justice.

    I do think Ehrenreich did a good job of portraying how trying the life of a low-wage worker can be, but at the same time I don't know that she gives those who work those jobs the credit they deserve. Or, she looks at one "type" of low-wage worker, almost mocking those who give their jobs their all, because she knows that this is only her life for a short time.

    I don't know that I've adequately described why I feel so conflicted over this book. Again, I could relate to many portions of it because of my years in retail, though I wasn't truly supporting myself on my retail wages for many of those years (though I was for some of them -- as management, the clear "enemy" in Ehrenreich's portrayal). I just had trouble with some of the views she took of the "big picture". Do I think corporations are often heartless and think nothing of the workers that keep the money rolling in? Yes. Do I think that managers are just vehicles of the corporate agenda? Not really, no. I think the situation is more complicated than Ehrenreich really touches on in some places, and I resented that a little bit.
  • (3/5)
    I have mixed feelings about this book, not because it isn't an incredibly important topic, or isn't well written, or gets it's factoids wrong, but because the author seems to miss the point of her own study. If this book gets people talking, then it has done what I believe it's job was. If it happens to also line the pockets of an otherwise already monetarily well off author (by her own self categorizing) who probably will never have to face a real life living situation like she pretends to live in the book... well, good for her. I do hope though after she got her pseudo first hand experience that she's empathetic enough to get involved somehow to help those millions who aren't going to get paid for telling their own real sad life story, no matter how good their literary skills are.
  • (5/5)
    I think this is an important book, many of the trends she’s discussing have only gotten worse in the past 20 years to the point that no where is affordable to live in this country, medical bankruptcies are 2/3 of all bankruptcies, credit card debt is ballooning, etc. There are times that she sounds a bit smug about her education but I think it honestly helps make her case, that even well-educated people struggle in these low wage jobs, that even with a car and $1,000 in her pocket she struggles to find housing, that she’s seen as entirely unremarkable by her bosses. It’s a good read
  • (4/5)
    Here is an in the trenches report on trying to make it in America on inadequate wages for essential work. Wake up call for $15.00 hourly wage.
  • (5/5)
    I found her deep dive into the mundane world of cheap labor refreshing. There's that sense of emptiness and futility that I see her walk through. Sure, she can walk away at the end, but she did her job as a reporter and came away with it knowing there's so many good people out there working their asses off and I think she appreciated meeting them and working alongside them.
  • (3/5)
    (Quibble: I was all of seven years old when welfare reform was instituted, so many of Ehrenreich's attacks against the reform went completely over my head. I couldn't recall anything about this legislation while reading.)

    While interesting, Ehrenreich's account never really connected with me on any level.
    Basically, the book covers three points: 1) minimum wage sucks, 2) businesses sucks, and 3) welfare reform sucks.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    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.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (1/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Despite the fact that I've been very lucky in a lot of ways, I could write about my experiences as a waitress, a barista, and an overnight worker in a large corporation like Wal-Mart, and it would sound like I plagiarized every bit of Ehrenreich's book. This is perhaps why I am so frustrated when I engage in conversations with others about this social, economic, and moral problem; the willing ignorance of the affluent and the sheer invisibility of the working poor aren't being addressed. This predates the Occupy Wall Street movement, and it's as if you're watching the dominoes set up and getting ready to start their fall.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)
    Ehrenreich posed as a waitress in order to discover how the working poor in America cope financially. I expected to find an examination of the cost of living, but instead found the flip-side: the difficulty of making a living, earning an income.As with any such journalism of this type, it’s hard to truly capture the desperation of not having the luxury of back-up, knowing that, at any time, you can return to another life, job, and bank account. Ehrenreich does acknowledge these limitations.A fine effort.3½ stars
  • (3/5)
    Good book. The author's agenda shows through like a spotlight behind tissue paper.
  • (5/5)
    "Nickel and Dimed" is a first-hand account of professor Ehrenreich's undercover life as a working class woman – waitressing, housecleaning and working at Walmart. With candor, Ehrenreich chronicles her journey of renting a place, finding a job and trying to balance the books at the end of the month. Set in the US, it is not, as you'd expect, an easy journey by any means.Ehrenreich writes candidly. She's very aware of her relative privilege, readily admits her failures in trying to balance her books, and even gives us a detailed account of herself when she starts losing it towards the end of several jobs. As such, the book is both eye-opening and a thoroughly enjoyable read.
  • (3/5)
    Barbara Ehrenreich, a social critic, stepped away from her life to find out the truth about living at the bottom and what that means for American prosperity. She moved to a couple different states where she was an “undercover” maid, waitress, nursing-home aide, cleaning lady, and a sales clerk at Walmart. She soon found out that even these jobs, claimed as unskilled, were exhausting mentally, and physically. She also learned that two jobs was needed if living under a roof was an essential. Diving into this book, although written in 1998, as a reader, you realize that even 15 years later this is still an issue.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Well written, smart, and brings the stark reality of the working poor to the surface. It addresses the common misconception of the poor, welfare recipients, and immigrants. It brings in the history of how the US dealt with the poor and offers insight into the discussion.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I loved the concept of this book, I just hated how it was executed. The author/ "undercover agent" of this book kept throwing around how much money she had in real life and how comfortable her place in society was. She was also really judgemental and at times racist as shit. Once you look past the author's bias, the research and method was actually really fascinating and depressing. Barbara Ehrenreich lived in three different cities and worked menial jobs and searched for the cheapest rent she could find to see if she could make ends meet while posing as a low income worker. What she uncovered was worse than what many middle class people could ever imagine. Personally, I had never even considered how truly hard it is to make ends meet. Even if you're working hard it's impossible to get ahead with minimum wage or even a few dollars above. Millions of Americans are living below the poverty line and this struggle is a daily aspect of their life that they just accept because they know there is no other option available. A great read.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (1/5)
    The whole premise of her experiemnt is flawed. Poor people do not travel to some distant community where they have no friends, family, or resources, and look for a minimum wage job. The vast majority of people just starting out have SOME reosurces, such as some hand-me-down household items and furniture from their family and friends, some cash saved from the job they held while they were still living with their family of origin. I suppose a woman who fled an abusive relationship with nothing but the clothes on her back would lack such basics as a soup pot and ladle or spoon. Or a child who was pushed out the door on their 18th birthday. But even in those cases there woudl be resources available- an abused woman can go to a woman's shelter, and a kid kicked out of his parents' home ought to have friends with a couch he can crash on for a few weeks.

    The author also makes a lot of choices that a person who grew up in poverty and was used to living on a limited budget would not make, such as assuming the only way to get a soup pot is to buy a $30 one at KMart. She needed tan slacks for her waitress job, and buys a $49 pair on sale for $30 at a so-called "downscale" department store. There are such things as thrift stores, Barbara. There are also clothing closets that provide clothes for free for low-income workers. My rural town has three thrift stores plus one clothing ministry where a person can get 2 bags of clothing twice per month.

  • (1/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    A recent conversation about homelessness has prompted me to consider the role that chance plays in our financial well-being. While it is certainly true that there are many factors within our control, from consumption habits to work ethic, I also believe that there are many factors outside of our control. We none of us can choose the family, community, or racial/ethnic/economic group into which we are born - all factors that strongly influence our chances of success. Likewise, we can neither predict, nor adequately prepare it would seem, for those unexpected disasters, whether medical or natural, which can destroy a lifetime of hard work in the blink of an eye.These reflections reminded me in turn, of Barbara Ehrenreich's excellent book, Nickel and Dimed, in which the author attempts to discover how well she herself could live working unskilled, minimum-wage jobs. Divided into three main sections, the book follows Ehrenreich as she works as a waitress in Florida, a nursing-home aide and cleaning woman in Maine, and a Wal-mart associate in Minnesota. She quickly discovers that she is barely able to live adequately on what she earns, even when working two jobs, and concludes that the conservative mantra of advancement and betterment through hard work is largely an illusion for the working poor.I have seen Ehrenreich criticized from both right and left, with reviewers accusing her of everything from advancing a socialist agenda to patronizing the working class with her "poverty tourism." As someone who thinks that socialized medicine and education would be of great benefit to our society, I am not unduly disturbed by the former. As for the latter, I am not sure just what it is people would have Ehrenreich do... If she were to live on the street, or temporarily "adopt" a few children, would her experience then seem more authentic? She acknowledges who she is, the privileges that she enjoys, and attempts to learn something about those less fortunate than herself. For that, I think she should be commended.

    1 person found this helpful