Book Review: ‘Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America’ by Barbara Ehrenreich


Before there was, the ‘Undercover Boss’, there was an ‘Undercover Low Wageworker’ and her name was Barbara Ehrenreich. Courageous enough the well-known journalist left her life behind for an undercover mission to find out what it was like to be a low wageworker in the earlier Millennia.

She ventured to three different states: Florida, Maine, and Minnesota. She stumbled upon a reoccurring theme, many of her counterparts held at least two jobs or more to obtain housing, food, and gas to survive. Furthermore, the way the employers treated, their employees were baffling; after all, it is the new century. In her book, she realizes it is about a caste system in which she rarely encounters in her true life as a journalist.

Many major elements received my attention; so I will review few here. First, shocking enough one of the most liberal state in our country, Minnesota the working poor does not fair to well at the time this book was written. In addition,‘Minnesota Nice’ was a fallacy concerning the woes of the poor working class when it came to ethnicity. (1. P.185) Another point to be made, although she rarely mentions but political policies has a lot to do with the situation of the working poor and she does mention a lot about the infamous, Welfare Reform. The realness of the book got me; because there were several positions that she obtained that, I have held. For instance, when she Barbara had to run the kitchen all by herself, I too as a Nursing Assistant covered a whole wing when another coworker did not show up for work. (1.P. 105) So you see this really hits close to home.

The only thing to mention, Ehrenreich throughout her book that she could escape to her own reality and for this reason I often thought to myself, “ How can she really relate to the low wageworker?” Although reminding myself, Ehrenreich will never know the full extent, what it is like to be a low wageworker but she can empathize. For her father worked in a mine and assuming he too encountered some of the stigmatism with being a low wageworker. In my opinion, this book was a roller coaster filled with everyday hardships of the author and her coworkers and their families. This book enlightened me and anyone who chooses to read it would benefit as well.

Looking forward to the sequel, Bait and Switch where the roles reverse, the white-collar worker without a job after the banking and real estate market crashes. Look for a review in the future.

1. Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Henry Holt and Company , 2001, New York. Print.

2. Barbara Ehrenreich’s Website:


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