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Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

5 Pages 1195 Words April 2019

From 1998-2000, Barbara Ehrenreich set out on an assignment to gather research on: how low wage workers survive in America. She has a Biology and is the best-selling author of Nickel and Dimed along with other books. The first thing she decides is a course of action with rules and limits she will try to follow: Ehrenreich cannot fall back on her education or skills, she must accept the highest wage offered, and she must find the least expensive housing. The limits include: always have a car, being homeless, having to sleep in shelters, or her vehicle, is not an option, and never go hungry; eventually, she breaks a few rules. Ehrenreich states "There is no way I am going to ‘experience poverty’ or find out how it ‘feels’ to be a long-term low wage worker" (6). With that verbal expression, she will not experience the full effect of how low wage workers survive because she has family and friends to fall on if she needs help, plus money set aside in case of an emergency, options most low wage workers do not have. She chooses three states to conduct her research; Florida, Maine, and Minnesota.
Ehrenreich's first stop in Key West, Florida. She makes a financial plan based on earnings of $7 per hour for housing, food, and gas. For rent, she figures that $500 a month should be affordable with enough money left for other necessities. In Key West, Ehrenreich explains, “$500 for rent has led to flophouses and trailer homes, ‘trailer trash’ has become, for me, the demographic category to aspire to" (12). She presented applications to over a dozen businesses, also two discount chain hotels both with connecting restaurants for housekeeping positions. After three days, Ehrenreich accepts the offer for a server position at one of the hotel restaurant’s, Hearthside. Her pay is $2.43 per hour plus tips while working from 2 pm to 10 pm. As she comes to know her co-workers, she learns their living conditions; she gathered the foll...

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