Nickel & Dimed In the novel Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, we see the true story of what is going on in most of America. Better yet, we see the every-day realities of the 35% of the people in our country who are struggling financially. Today, many people deal with homelessness, unemployment, and low paying jobs just the way Ehrenreich did for this experiment. The goal was to see if the money she made monthly would be enough to get her by with the next months rent. Although she was educated with a Ph. D in Biology, she set her real life aside to take a step into the lives of those in poverty.
She opens the readers eyes to the fact that many Americans are making far less money than they deserve: “No one ever said that you could work hard—harder even than you ever thought possible—and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt. ” Ehrenreich’s novel proves the point that despite ones hard work, our not-so-fast economy can still lead to countless amounts of struggles. Ehrenreich’s experiment begins in Key West, Florida. She is under the identity of a newly divorced housewife fresh into the work industry.
She first learns her way about the application process of low wage jobs. She discovers that they entail a survey of questions, along with a urine test. After three days of not hearing back from the jobs she had applied for, she begins to feel desperate and applies for a waitressing job at very low pay. She earned $2. 43 an hour, with grueling hours beginning at 2 P. M. and ending at 10 P. M. daily. She soon realizes this one job will not get her by, and applies for a second waitressing job. At this time she is living in a hotel room, and takes a job as a hotel housekeeper as well.
Ehrenreich leaves the second waitressing job due to unbearable work conditions, and continues her journey in Portland, Maine hoping for better luck. Soon enough, though, she is forced with the reality that decent paying jobs are not so easy to take hold of. Eventually, she moves into a cottage for $120 dollars a week. Throughout this time, Ehrenreich serves as an employee of the typical low wage American jobs: as a waitress, a store clerk, and a housekeeper. Towards the end of the novel, she decides to finally open up to her most trusted coworkers about the experiment.
Unfortunately, though, she received not one reaction of interest. Throughout the novel, Ehrenreich displays how not only can poverty effect your way of living, but it can also effect your psychological status. She went into her new life in Maine believing things would be far easier, as though her $6/7 dollar pay in Florida was so out of the ordinary. She felt as though if the supply in labor was as low as demand, the prices would rise. Unfortunately, our economy did not work in her favor. Supply and demand is used as an economic model for Americans.
It serves as a price determination of a market, and ultimately results in an economic equilibrium for price and quantity. There are four common rules of Supply and Demand, which are as follows: 1) If demand increases and supply remains unchanged, a shortage occurs, leading to a higher equilibrium price. 2) If demand decreases and supply remains unchanged, a surplus occurs, leading to a lower equilibrium price. 3) If demand remains unchanged and supply increases, a surplus occurs, leading to a lower equilibrium price 4) If demand remains unchanged and supply decreases, a shortage occurs, leading to a higher equilibrium price.
Overall, Ehrenreich’s confidence before joining the work force led her to failure. She did not expect the difficulties she was forced to face, and in turn, was only capable of landing uncomfortable, unfair, and grueling jobs. The places Ehrenreich chose to conduct this experiment had plenty to do with the outcome of her results. Job growth typically occurs in suburban cities. Consequently, where rents are high, which leaves the last bits of affordable housing to the inner city people. For some less fortunate people, it forces them to travel long distances to work, which in turn costs them more money.
For Ehrenreich, though, the answer to her financial issues throughout the novel would be to pick up her things and try out a new place to live. She believed it was not the housing crisis that made one poor, but the need for food and health care to stay alive. She continues on to say that food is “relatively inflation-proof”, although the poverty rate is mainly based on this. The value, need, and price of food will always rise, although the money one makes to support themselves is no guaranteed.
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