Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Front Cover
Macmillan, Apr 1, 2010 - Social Science - 224 pages
2072 Reviews

Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity.

Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.


What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

User Review  - Goodreads

I appreciate the insight on poverty from this undercover perspective. Although it's nearly 15 years old, I'm sure the working poor are living in similar circumstances yet today. It would be interesting to see how low-wage workers are trying to survive today.--Abigail P. Read full review

Review: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

User Review  - Goodreads

I don't particularly understand why there are so many bad reviews of this book. You can tell she did extensive research on this topic even beyond her personal experience. I think it's a good reminder ... Read full review

All 171 reviews »


Getting Ready
One Serving in Florida
Two Scrubbing in Maine
Three Selling in Minnesota
Nickel and Dimed
A Readers Guide

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2010)

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Nickel and Dimed, Blood Rites, The Worst Years of Our Lives (a New York Times bestseller), Fear of Falling, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and eight other books. A frequent contributor to Time, Harper's, Esquire, The New Republic, Mirabella, The Nation, and The New York Times Magazine, she lives near Key West, Florida.

Bibliographic information