Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel And Dimed

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In Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich asks the question “How does anyone live on wages available to the unskilled?”(1). Ehrenreich investigates by going undercover as a low-wage worker to understand how workers ‘get by’ and see the effects of recent welfare reform aimed to help them. Ehrenreich, over the course of two years, worked unskilled labor intensive jobs in three different cities. Frequently, just to afford bare living expenses, Ehrenreich had to possess two jobs, which took a toll of her health. After completing her stint as a low-wage worker, she comes to the conclusion that they are treated as disposable by employers, often being manipulated or threatened to be compliant about their meager wages…show more content…
Such as, Caroline who “was both black and Indian, a migrant farmworker, and had been raped by someone and also abused by her boyfriend” (133). By introducing an extensive array of real low-wage workers, like Caroline, the audience makes note to the multiplicity of the workers personalities and background. Ehrenreich discredits those who claim low-wage workers are all lazy, unambitious and “homogenous in personality or ability” by clearly identifying many people who do not fit that mold (8). Ehrenreich wants to stress that “the only thing holding back welfare recipients was” was not “their reluctance” to get a job” (196); but the entire system for low-wage workers. It can be nearly impossible to escape poverty for even the most tenacious person depending on the…show more content…
The first-hand account Ehrenreich provides as a low-wage workers may not be enough to warrant the audience’s trust in her claims, so she sprinkles in actual studies/statistics to make her claims more convincing. She states “Preamble Center for Public Policy was estimating that the odds against a typical welfare recipient’s landing of a job at such a ‘living wage’ were about 97 to 1” (3). Ehrenreich’s main point is that it is very hard to get by with minimum wage, especially without any help from friends or family. Referencing a reputable source that follows her claims made through her experience makes the narration seem more trustworthy. In addition, Ehrenreich notes “rents…have to be less than 30 percent of one’s income to be considered ‘affordable’” and then cites “Housing analyst Peter Dreier” who reports that the majority of poor renters spend “50 percent of their income on shelter” (170). Those pieces of data follow after Ehrenreich’s experience trying to find housing in Minnesota with inadequate wages; it supports her claim that not only did she struggle with making ends meet for housing, but so do many other low-income people/families. The use of reliable data, that is difficult to dispute, paired with Ehrenreich’s narration strengthens her argument further about the insufficient system for low-wage
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