Book Reports, Portfolio

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (Book Report)

Cheran Jacob Ratnam

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

February 26, 12

Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Nickel and Dimed, takes the modern day human on a much-needed journey to places that some people only take when comfortably staring at a flat screen television at their own convenience. The average low-income workers become stars in this experimental journey, to explore low-income survival techniques.

A celebrated author, with a PhD in Biology decided to disguise herself as a low-income worker, to explore how she could survive on the wages earned from the available low-income jobs, from Florida to Maine. The author shares a fraction of the reality of those who are forced to drive through life in poverty. The author also describes how she had ensured protection throughout this journey, which is a privilege those who actually live through these circumstances do not have.

However, she is able to paint a picture of the material reality of low-income workers through her personal experience of living on the limited possibilities available to a white-female-American in this cross section of underrepresented society. In a way, the author decided to play the role of a typical low-income worker, in order to explore what it feels like to actually live this role in real life.

The author’s method of immersing into her subjects’ reality in order to capture experiences is a commonly shared fantasy. However, those who fantasize, always fantasizes grandeur and luxury, rather than living on dimes. Thus, the author is appealing to those that tend to forget about the poor, caught in a race to be the biggest hoarder.

She describes her experience of being a low-income worker saying, “It’s not just the work that has to be learned in each situation. Each job presents a self-contained social world, with its own personalities, hierarchy, Customs, and standards” (Ehrenreich, 2002, p 194).

Author Casson. J expresses her view of the book in her article as follows: “Her experiences and observations shed needed light on this important yet neglected segment of the workforce. They also make it difficult not to be sympathetic to the struggle and supportive of efforts to improve the life of the working poor” (Casson, 2002). Here, Casson gives an un-biased opinion of the book, which states its strengths and weaknesses.

The book takes the reader on a journey. For those who have worked similar jobs, taking this journey may result in an unpleasant reminder that may emphasize the need for a reality check. For those who have had the privilege of not having to experience life in the shoes of a low-income worker, this book may seem fictional. Either way, the author’s adventurous experiment, recorded in vivid detail is alarmingly though provoking. This book is a great read for those interested in Journalism as well as social sciences.


Casson, J. J. (2002). Nickel and Dimed (Book). American Economist, 46(1), 78.

Daniel, L. (2001). Nickel and dimed: on (not) getting by in America. Christian

Century, 118(22), 30-31.

David Ng.  (2006, October 18). Nickel and Dimed. The Village Voice,p. 135.  Retrieved

February 25, 2012, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1157094581).

Ed Kaufman.  (2002, September). ‘Nickel and Dimed’. Hollywood Reporter, 375, 24.

Retrieved February 25, 2012, from Research Library. (Document ID: 279857721).

Ehrenreich, B. (2002). Nickel and Dimed. Holt Paperbacks.

Munoz, R. A. (2005, January). ‘Nickel and Dimed’. Clinical Psychiatry News, 33(1), 83.

Retrieved from


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