Quicklet on Nickel And Dimed

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Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed has sold more than 1.5 million copies since its publication in 2001. It is required reading in many high school and college classrooms. The book has been translated into several languages. It has recently become available as an ebook.

Nickel and Dimed received The 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Current Interest book

Joan Holden wrote a play based on the characters found in Nickel and Dimed. Richard Brick and Ira Deutchman are developing a movie based on Nickel and Dimed. Mr. Brick is best known as the co-producer of several Woody Allen movies. He also worked with the late Peter Jennings.


Ms. Ehrenreich had options. She could stay at home and attempt to live on the equivalent of a $7 an hour job. This scheme, however, wouldn’t give her a true picture of the life lived by a menial worker. According to The Preamble Center for Public Policy, the odds were 97 to 1 against a recent welfare recipient finding a job that paid a “living wage.”

Barbara decided she had to personally battle those odds to understand how the working poor live.

In addition, Ms. Ehrenreich holds a doctorate in biology. Her training dictated personal experimentation. She wanted to find out if there were “hidden economies in the world of the low wage worker.”

Perhaps, she thought, there were unseen benefits to this type of life. On the other hand, the day to day drudgery of low paying work might exact hidden damages. Barbara decided only first-hand experience could tell the tale.

Rules were set for her journey into the world of unskilled labor.

Rule one: There could be no use of her normal set of job skills.

Rule two: She had “to take the highest paying job that was offered” and do her “best to hold it.”

Rule three: She must live in the cheapest place available, within a given range of safety and privacy. Over time, Barbara bent all of these rules.

Filling out job applications presented the next problem. She reinvented herself as a recently divorced homemaker returning to work after many years.

Ms. Ehrenreich’s doctorate in biology became three years of college. Friends were enlisted to back up the fabrications. The reinvention turned out to be almost unnecessary. Most potential employers didn’t check her references.

...to be continued!

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