Working Womenʼs History Project

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


By Barbara Ehrenreich


Ehrenreich in this book calls attention to the millions of Americans working full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages. In her research, Ehrenreich took minimum-wage jobs in 1998 in three cities to see if survival was possible. Her first-hand investigation and discouraging findings have caught the attention of the media and finally brought national attention to the plight of the working poor.




The New York Times bestseller, and one of the most talked about books of the year, Nickel and Dimed has already become a classic of undercover reportage.


Millions of Americans work for poverty-level wages, and one day Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 to $7 an hour?


To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the “lowliest” occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.


Nickel and Dimed reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity — a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate strategies for survival. Instantly acclaimed for its insight, humor, and passion, this book is changing the way America perceives its working poor.



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