Nickel and Dimed Book Report
Nickel and Dimed is about a well-off author, Barbara Enrenreich, and her experience when she sets aside her college education, white collar job, and joins the ranks of workers living near minimum wage. During her experiment, she struggles to just get by; becoming ever more hopeless toward the end. She jumps from job to job, always searching the want ads for opportunities, and avoiding the wrath of the management. She points out the problem of the poor, without enough money upfront, they are stuck paying much higher amounts for housing and enormous rates on credit cards to live paycheck to paycheck. In addition, firms are only interested in hiring drug-free people good at following orders, and ones which don't steal company time. No skills are required other then following directions. Affordable housing is extremely hard to come by she finds. Overall, her experiences were less the positive.
Nickel and Dimed scared me into making sure I get a good education, and a good, well paying, white collar job. In addition, I will never look at a service person the same way again. They go through so much, and make so little. Even buying a uniform for their next job puts them weeks behind in savings. These people seem to live in a different country then us, both because of their standard of living, and how much we hear about them. Next time, I will definitely support raising the minimum wage. In addition, tips are a large part of wages for servers; I should remember that as I start eating out without my family.
Overall, I enjoyed reading the book a lot. When I first read it I could not put it down. I read all of it in one day. I seem to enjoy books like this, giving a view inside American society, and how it works. The book is very well written and describes her experiences almost perfectly, without becoming repetitive. I appreciate the facts she intersperses with her story. Overall, I would highly recommend that other read the book in order to gain the same insight which I did.
Nickel and Dimed is about the income inequality which exists in the American economy. The book talks about "market" conditions do not mirror real life. Economics assumes that people will have all of the ideas they need to make a smart choice. But the wage taboo prevents wages from being discussed. Help wanted ads are always posted, and almost all don't offer hard numbers. Job searches take time, which can be better spent working. So the actual plight of the poor differs from textbook assumptions and models. This book tells the important human cost of low wages, which is missing in most textbooks.
The review I read from The Humorist starts out not liking the book, but ends up enjoying the book very much. The reviewer even goes as far as to say, "this book should be required reading for corporate executives and politicians." I agree. The people who make the decisions about welfare programs and the entry-level wages so be aware just how far those wages go in today's society. They should realize how they are barely paying subsistent wages and should have a little humanity before they protest minimum wage increases. And the politicians should understand that minimum wages do matter to some people; they should pass increases regardless of the protests. Political should also realize how real welfare cuts hit home with a large part of America.
- Enrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed.New York: Henry Holt, 2001.
- Scott, Joni. "Nickel and Dimed: On Getting By in America - Not - Review." The Humanist. Sept 2001. Looksmart 9 Jan 2007 <http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1374/is_5_61/ai_78966516>.
She sets out on her journey telling the difference between her and a real "wage slave:" She pays for a car with her credit card, is healthier then most who worked hard all of their lives, and has the security of knowing that if she can't make it, or at the end of the experiment, a large house and a well-paying job awaited her.