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

The non-fiction book Nickel and Dimed focus on one main character Barbra Ehrenreich. Barbra is a successful journalist and decides that she wants to do a social experiment to answer the question, “How do poor people get by on minimum wage jobs?” 

Throughout the book, Barbra moved to three places around America to compare how people survive on minimum wage. She allowed herself to start out with enough money for an apartment and a car. 

She started her experiment in Flordia as a waitress earning $2.45 plus tips. Then moved to Maine working as a housecleaner for $6.65 an hour and on weekends for an old age home starting at $7 an hour. The final place she went for her experiment was Minnesota, working at Walmart for $7 an hour. 

Everywhere Barbra went she scrawled for affordable housing. At one point she was paying $245 (which was more than her salary) for a run-down motel that had no window screen or no lock on the door. 

When working these jobs she finds that her co-workers are hard-working people that a kind and generous. While working with them she tries to figure out where they are living and how they make ends meet. 

The author, Barbara Ehrenreich is a social critic, journalist, author, and activist. Barbra is most know for the book Nickel and Dimed. She is qualified to do this book because this was her own experiment and she was the one who lived through this experiment for three months trying to make it on her own with minimum wage jobs. 

Barbara wrote Nickel and Dimed for a social experiment to answer the question, “How do poor people get by on minimum wage jobs.” She hoped to answer the question as she went on a journey for about three months. As you will find in the book that is not doable. People cannot survive on minimum wage in America. 

Some methods that Barbra used in the book were interviewing, observation, and participation. Barbra was living the life of a “poor person.” while she was doing that when she talked to her co-workers about their life she would ask them questions. They thought she was just talking to them but she was secretly interviewing and observing them. Also, the whole time in this experiment Barabra was participating working her butt off trying to make ends meet. She gets emotionally involved in the story by living the lifestyle she is trying to figure out. 

I think Barbra Ehrenreich did a good job painting a picture in the reader’s head of what it is like to live as a lower class citizen in America. It made me open my eyes. I am normally usually aware of and gracious to the workers that I meet. But I will now be more aware of how much I tip and how the workers that are helping and tended to my needs are being treated because you don’t know their background.

Something that I think Barabra could have done differently in her experiment after she returned to her actual life, going back and visiting the places she worked at in those three months and talk to the workers she worked with to sit down and actually interview them to tell their real story. 

I would give Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America a 4 out of 5 stars. Worth a read!

One Response to “Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America Review”

  1.   fuglsang Says:

    I should probably point out that Ehrenreich spells her name Barbara. The only Barbra I’m aware of is Streisand.

    If you are now a better tipper, then Ehrenreich’s work was worthwhile. The book is just as important now because the minimum wage has not increased by that much (at all?) since she wrote the book. Even some salaried workers like teachers can’t make it without a second job, or a roommate, or a spouse who is bringing in a second wage. That’s pretty sad.

    What did you think of the idea of Ehrenreich secretly collecting info on her co–workers? Do you think that was ethical? As long as she was carrying her weight on the jobs, does it matter? Do you think she owes them a cut of the book’s profits?

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