Nickle and Dimed with Use of Sociological Theories

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“No one ever said that you could work hard—harder even than you ever thought possible—and still find yourself sinking even deeper into poverty and debt.” This is a quote by Barbara Ehrenreich who wrote “Nickel and Dimed,” she is a journalist with a PHD in biology and writes about her own story as she chooses to change her entire lifestyle, face the hardships of being a part of the working poor class just to see if she can survive. Throughout the book she illustrated the different jobs she endured and the struggles that came along with the jobs. Her story highlights the social inequality she experienced based on her status, working poor class, routine lifestyle, her experience living on the edge and the stagnant pay she received. There was a lot of social inequality in her journey that many Americans seem to overlook on the poor working class. Ehrenreich worked at a restaurant as a housekeeper/ server and experienced what it was like working paycheck to paycheck. She constantly struggled on making her rent payments on time and finding cheap motels or apartments that she could pay for monthly. She found it very difficult to keep extra money for food or emergencies. Under these circumstances many sociologist would classify her as the working poor which is defined as, “poor to the extent that their economic status is extremely precarious. They literally live from paycheck to paycheck… Their wages are usually low, if they do work regularly, they have difficulty making financial ends meet”(Marger,152). One of the times Ehrenreich experienced this struggle was when she was living in Minneapolis and was looking for a good place to live in and she realized that the vacancy rent was less than 1 percent but she could not afford it unless it was one tenth of that. It became really difficult for her to balance her wages with her living expenses. Ehreireich illustrated, “you don’t need a degree in economics to see that wages are too low and rents too high” (Ehreireich,199). One of the ways that she would survive and find something that was affordable was by getting free food at local organizations or use some of her emergency she had saved up prior to changing to this lifestyle. However she still seemed to fall into a category of poverty because she was barely making it and if it was not for her own help she would not have made it as a working poor. Ehreireich was experiencing living on the edge which is another sociological term that is correlated with the poor working class. “It’s a common feature of the working poor that are constantly struggling to make ends meet on bottom-level wages. Workers can never be certain that they can be paid from one month or week to the next that other life needs can be afforded (Marger,153). Ehrenreich aimed to see if she could match up the income to expenses as the poor intended on every day. She worked many different minimum wage jobs such as a waitress, a cleaning person, nursing home aide and sales associate at Wal-Mart. She discussed how at her Key West job she earned 1,039 in one month and spent 517 on food, gas, toiletries, laundry and her phone. But rent was the “deal breaker” and if she remained in her 500$ she would pay rent and only have about 20 dollars left over. It was difficult for her to get by and she said the only time she felt that she was a little more stable with her earnings was when she had 2 jobs, and she saw it as a necessity. She even relates to how in Portland, Maine her jobs as a cleaning lady and a nursing aid, she became closest to balancing earnings with her expenses but only because she worked seven days a week. She was experiencing the social inequality of low earnings and high spending’s that many of the poor working class go through today. Although much of society would qualify her as a working poor because, “their income although low, may be adequate enough to push them about the official poverty line (Marger, 152) Ehrenreichs situation and hardships make it...
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