Monday, August 19, 2019

Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America Essay

Great discoveries always begin with great questions. Barbara Ehrenreich asked two great questions, â€Å"how does anyone live on the wages available to the unskilled† and â€Å"how were the roughly four million women about to be booted into the labor market by welfare reform, going to make it on $6 to $7 an hour† (2001, p. 12). To answer the questions, Ehrenreich embarked upon a journey to discover for herself, whether she could match income to expense as a low-wage worker. In effect, Ehrenreich tested the fundamental premise of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, also known as welfare reform, in order to determine whether those individuals formerly on welfare and largely unskilled, could earn a living wage on the minimum wage. In the book, Ehrenreich documented her experiences working a series of minimum wage jobs as a waitress, a maid and a nursing home dietary assistant. Ehrenreich found that in order to make ends meet and afford a place to live and food to eat, she needed to work two jobs, which left her in a constant state of exhaustion and pain. She also observed of her fellow servers that, â€Å"everyone who lacks a working husband or boyfriend seems to have a second job† (2001, p. 48). Many of her co-workers shared the same challenge with affordable living arrangements, some living in a van, with their mother, sharing rooms with strangers or even living in a dry-docked boat (Ehrenreich, 2001). Not only did Ehrenreich find that the wages offered unskilled workers were not enough to meet the basic needs of food and shelter, but that there are a â€Å"host of special costs† (2001, p. 27) incurred by the working poor. For example, workers are required to invest their own funds in pa rtial uniform and pay ... ...y Status, by Family Relationship, Race, and Hispanic Origin Washington D.C.: U.S. Bureau of the Census Retrieved from U.S. Department of Labor. (2011). Employment status of the population, 1940s to date Washington D.C.: Bureau of Labor Statistics Retrieved from U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services. Administration for Children and Families. (2011). TANF - Data and Reports. Washington D.C.: U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services Retrieved from U.S. Office of Management and Budget. (2011). Table 11.3—Outlays for Payments for Individuals by Category and Major Program: 1940–2016. Washingon D.C.: White House Retrieved from

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