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

nickel and dimedIn the wake of the 1996 American welfare reforms, Barbara Ehrenreich decides to go undercover as a member of the working class.  She works as a waitress in Florida, a maid and nursing home attendant in Maine, and a retail worker in Minnesota.  Her experiences are varied, but in the end she reaches some overarching and unsurprising conclusions — that it’s near-impossible to live a healthy, happy life on the minimum wage.  Readers who have worked in low-paying jobs in the service industry will find much of the book unsurprising (and, often, maddening), but for others this book may be an eye-opener.

“My guess is that the indignities imposed on so many low-wage workers – the drug tests, the the constant surveillance, being “reamed out” by managers – are part of what keeps wages low. If you’re made to feel unworthy enough, you may come to think that what you’re paid is what you’re worth.”

Barbara Ehrenreich is a journalist and author.  Her books include Living with a Wild God, Nickel and Dimed, and This Land is Their Land.  In 2011, she began the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, which promotes excellence in reporting on poverty.



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