Nickel and Dimed

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Research Essay: Nickel and Dimed Looking at the state of low wage workers in America today, many are struggling to make ends meet and provide basic needs to themselves and their families. Is this a new situation or just a necessary part of the overall American economic structure? In her book, “Nickel and Dimed” (2001), Barbara Ehrenreich steps out of her comfortable, middle class existence to find out how the people working in the lowest rung of America’s economy are getting by. Using her sarcasm, dry wit, and no-nonsense storytelling style, makes her main claim that in the economy of today, low wage workers are not anywhere near making it, let alone moving up the socio-economic ladder. This claim is hotly debated in every possible theater, from the political campaign trail, in the press, and at the local community college campus. Ehrenreich also states that there are several accompanying causes that are also at play, that high housing costs, access to basic health care, and the lack of a basic “living wage” contribute to a “hidden-cost” economy, and that they are working against people in low wage jobs. There are numerous arguments that have been presented that both support and refute Ehrenreich’s claims, mainly examining the validity of her examples, support information, and her execution of the experiment. Discussion of these different points of view and analysis will provoke further healthy debate on the state of the working poor and the possible solutions that we need to explore as an educated society.
In the introduction of the book Ehrenreich details the formation of this experiment in great detail, from the lunch discussion with a colleague that led to the original formation of the idea, all the way to the specific conditions for the experiment. While she wanted to experience life as a member of the working poor, she did not want to put herself in any real danger or hardship. In fact, in the beginning, she had serious discussions with her family that



Cited: Adams, Guy, "The Health Care System Favors the Wealthy and Harms the Poor." Are America 's Wealthy Too Powerful? Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2011. At Issue. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 10 May 2011. Barnes, William, "Wage Regulation Will Not Help the Poor." How Can the Poor Be Helped?, Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2011. At Issue. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 10 May 2011. Doak, Melissa J., "Money, Income, and Poverty." Women in American Society. 2010. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Information Plus Reference Series. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 10 May 2011. Ehrenriech, Barbara, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America,” New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2001, Print. Schweikart, Larry, "The Difficulties of the Working Poor Are Overstated." Poverty and the Homeless. Ed. Mary E. Williams. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Current Controversies. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 10 May 2011.

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