Friday, December 2, 2011

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in AmericaNickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In an experiment, journalist and author Barbara Ehrenreich tried to see if she could survive by working at low-wage jobs. She had to find an entry-level job, housing, and food in each of the three cities she lived in, and manage to eat and stay safe, for a month. Could she do it? Answer: not very well. In each case, the rents were too high, the pay too low, the conditions appalling (at least for someone coming from a comfortable middle-class background).

Her attempts took place around 1999-2000, when the economy was doing much better than it is now, when there was very low unemployment and many open jobs were waiting for workers. I remember her saying in an interview in the last year or so (for the 10th anniversary) that there is no way she could do this now - there just aren't any jobs out there. Which just makes the situation worse, and makes some of her conclusions seem like tragic predictions.

A very quick read, and eye-opening, even to someone who has read about/ worked with/ known about poverty and the perils of being part of the working-poor. It also makes me even angrier now when I hear Republicans talking about how we have to preserve the incomes of the very wealthy and put more of the burden on the poor.

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