What Should an Essay About "Nickel and Dimed" Include?


Quick Answer

One of the themes for an essay about the book "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America" is the struggles that workers encounter paying basic living expenses while working for minimum wage. The 2001 book chronicles the experience of the author, Barbara Ehrenreich, who goes undercover to work low-wage jobs in the United States.

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Ehrenreich works as a server in a restaurant, a maid, a personal care aid and an associate at Walmart. She uses only the income she earns from these jobs to pay her monthly costs for rent, food and transportation. She finds it difficult to be able to pay all of the expenses for each month. The workers she meets have the same struggles, but they often find themselves also taking care of young children or elderly parents. Many are living in unstable housing situations with friends or relatives with the uncertainty of being asked to leave at anytime. She writes that workers living on minimum wage don't have the resources to resolve common living expenses such as paying to fix a car or an appliance that breaks down.

One of the conclusions of her investigation is the minimum wage is not a living wage for people. Ehrenreich criticizes the United States for not providing adequate public services that are offered in other countries, such as health insurance, subsidized child care, subsidized housing and decent public transportation. She argues this supplements the income of the working poor, but in the United States the working poor are expected to fend for themselves.

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