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Nickel and Dimed Essay

In the book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America” Barbara Ehrenreich writes of her experiences working and living in what is considered mainstream America. In the sociological perspective the method of research Ehrenreich used was that of participant observation in which the researcher participates in the research setting while observing what is happening in that setting. The type of people studied were the lower middle class, the working class and the working poor.

Lower middle class is about 30 percent of the population and members of this class have jobs that call for them to follow orders given by those who have upper middle class credentials. Their technical and lower level management positions bring them a good living, but is usually constantly threatened by taxes and inflation. In Ehrenreich’s book she discusses how these groups of individuals will feel secure in their positions and anticipate being able to move up the social class ladder.

The distinction between the lower middle class and the working class on the next lower rung are more blurred than those between other classes, but members of the lower middle class work at jobs that have slightly more prestige and their incomes are generally higher. The focus on the book was more on the working class and the working poor. Another 30 percent of the U. S. Population belongs to this class of relatively unskilled blue collar and white collar workers. Compared with the lower middle class, they have less education and lower incomes.

Their jobs are also less secure, more routine, and more closely supervised. One of their greatest fears is being laid off during a recession. With only a high school diploma, the average member of the working class has little hope of climbing up the class ladder. Job changes usually bring more of the same, so most concentrate on getting ahead by achieving seniority on the job rather than by changing their type of work. Ehrenreich worked mainly in this class but in order to make ends meet, she also took a job, cleaning houses that the working poor would normally be employed at.

The working poor make up about 22 percent of the population and work at unskilled, lower paying, temporary and seasonal jobs, such as sharecropping, migrant farm work, house cleaning and day labor. Most are high school dropouts. Many are functionally illiterate, finding it difficult to read even the want ads. They are less likely to vote because they feel that no matter what party is elected to office their situation won’t change. Many of these individuals work full time but still have to depend on help such as food stamps to supplement their meager incomes.

But with the push to end social institutions in America the problem will only become huge. Ehrenreich’s book shows how easy to see how one can work full time and still are poor. This book shows clearly the workings of the capitalist society we live in. How most live day to day and if they are getting by don’t mind. The working poor are the one’s that will be affected the most by welfare reform and in my opinion no one is really paying attention.

The only attention is the bottom dollar; the only thing that is looked at is how much this will increase money for the upper classes. It really wasn’t very shocking to me what was going on when you live and have lived within these social classes. I have always known we are just the indentured servants working for the capitalist class that only create about 1 percent of the population. Reference: Ehrenreich, B. (2003). Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. New York: Holt Publishers.

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