Dave Gaston's Reviews > Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
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's review
Aug 16, 2010

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bookshelves: nonfiction, america, celebrity-media, sociology-psychology
Read in January, 2009

Ehrenreich brought to bear a subject of great importance -- America’s chronic under-employed. She did not do so with high prose or rich story telling. In fact, you will find yourself mincing her every approach and questioning some of her tinged conclusions. Still, you have to give her credit for throwing herself into the living realities of the clock-punching, shift-changing American minority. For 6 months, she went under cover attempted to live on a salary scratched from minimum wage jobs across the US. Her experiment in trying to live right at the poverty line failed, both for her and for the millions of real under-employed Americans. What tripped her up? short term: availability to cheap, safe housing (something I never considered) and long term: lack of medical coverage. Her short, quick book stays with you, because she manages to make you think long and hard about the invisible but real socioeconomic class system in America. It will make you think twice as you purchase fast food and shop at your favorite retailer. Where do these guys go at night? How do they feed their kids?
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Henry Dave, I read this book and came to many of the same conclusions as you. I find myself wondering how people can support themselves let alone a family on the wages offered at many of the places we as Americans frequent (fast food, discount retail establishments, etc) The one disappointment I had was her lack of long term research as she only stayed at any one job for about 30 days and the fact she had a safety net to fall back on where as the people she was trying to emulate did not. That may sound picky, but in my opinion it softened the effect.

Dave Gaston You are so right Henry. I often read survival tales that are very detached from my life, never thinking that another one might exist in the strained and brittle life of the grocery clerk that just rang up my lunch.

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