Nickel and Dimed - Barbara Ehrenreich (Non-Fiction)


Released May 2002

I find myself wondering what this "experiment" would be like now that the economy, housing market and employment market have tanked and are trying to recover. It scares me to think of how many doors would have been slammed in Barbara Ehrenreich's face because, at least in my area, even jobs at McDonald's, grocery stores and other low-wage companies became difficult to land.

In the late 1990s,, Barbara Ehrenreich headed to various locations around the United States and attempted to learn if she could survive in a minimum wage job. Her goals were to have food, housing and a car. As she traveled from Key West to Portland, Maine, to Minnesota, she quickly discovered that one job wouldn't cut it.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is one of my son's high school reading requirements. I picked up a copy for him, but decided to read it out of curiosity. I've seen a similar experiment take place on Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days and he barely squeaked by.

I appreciate that the author touched on some of the more challenging aspects for the low-income. While we're middle-income where we live, taxes, electricity costs, heating bills and housing prices make it difficult for middle-income to make ends meet.

We have neighbors who have it harder and they seriously survive on boxed macaroni and cheese and the dollar a pack hot dogs found at area grocers. They'll throw in half a bag of frozen peas, corn or green beans to get some vegetables. As a result, their younger daughter is frequently suffering from a cold, flu or other virus. They know their diet sucks, but they can't afford better, and yet make too much money to qualify for government assistance.

It's interesting for me to see how little has changed. I know a teen who has now had two babies and was able, receives welfare, WIC and additional government help for teens who've had a baby. She has a three bedroom house that she pays little for, groceries, diapers, baby needs, they're all paid for through aid. She's even going to an online college thanks to grants and special programs. She doesn't have to work. I hope it helps her improve herself. At the same time, when her first child neared his second birthday, when aid is reduced, she had another baby so that nothing was lost. It's milking the system and she's admitted it's much easier to stick on welfare than try to make it on her own. This is where I'm really want to see reform occur.


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