The Experiences of Living on Minimum Wage in Nickel and Dimed, a Book by Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed tells the story of how Ehrenreich, a skilled white-collar worker went undercover to live on minimum wage. Ehrenreich attempted to see if one truly could survive on minimum wage, and if the American Dream really did exist. Ehrenreich hypothesized that if she went to living on minimum wage, she could eventually move up in social class, However, Ehrenreich found that it was an optimistic perspective to believe our society truly is egalitarian. People living on minimum wage face setbacks and do not have the same access to privileges that allow middle and upper class people to retain their wealth.

Things like paying for day care or housing takes up such a large amount of money up front, that people on minimum wage cannot save up for the future Our capitalistic society is created for the wealthy to stay wealthy, which in turn means that the poor stay poor. In Who Rules America? G William Domhoff describes just how the wealthy are able to wield their privilege to control all the power.

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For example, people who have money can pay for lobbyists or sway politicians to align their actions to helping the rich stay rich, Domhoff describes this “power elite” as the top most influential force in how our society works. The United States of America has always promoted itself as a meritocracy, where any citizen, no matter what financial circumstances you are under, can become successful through hard work. This is known as the American Dream and it drives the way people in this country View each other.

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Those with high economic status are seen as hard working and deserving of their lifestyles, while those with low economic status are seen as lazy and should not be receiving any government aid because they have what they earned.

However people’s wealth is not always representative of their work ethic, There are many different factors that can affect people’s financial situations that don’t seem to be based on any vales that would be in an egalitarian society. People are underprivileged due to things like race and gender; it is impossible to say our society gives everyone an equal playing field when women make 75 cents to every dollar a man makes in the same job, or people of color are the least likely to go to college, thus making it more difficult for their children to go to college, crating a systemic inequality.

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The Experiences of Living on Minimum Wage in Nickel and Dimed, a Book by Barbara Ehrenreich. (2022, Jul 25). Retrieved from

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