Posted: February 13th, 2023

Nickel and Dimed takes place in 1998-2000, a time of unprecedented prosperity in America. Do you think Ehrenreich’s experience would be different in today’s economy? How so?

Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is an eye-opening account of the economic difficulties faced by working class Americans. Published in 2001, it documents her experience of attempting to live on a minimum wage salary while living and working in three different cities. The book was written with specific focus on Ehrenreich’s experiences during the period 1998-2000 when America was experiencing unprecedented prosperity under President Clinton.

American society has changed significantly since then, including drastic shifts in the economy due to the global financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession. If Ehrenreich were to attempt another “experimental” journey today, she would face some very different challenges than she did two decades ago.

The most obvious difference would be regarding housing costs and availability; while low-income apartments may have been an option during Ehrenreich’s travels (especially since rent control still existed in 1998), this type of accommodation has become increasingly difficult to secure in recent years due to rising housing prices across much of the country and gentrification driving out low-income residents from urban cores. Finding an affordable place to live, even if only temporarily, could prove exceptionally challenging for someone trying to survive on minimum wages today compared with what might have been possible during the late 1990s.

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Nickel and Dimed takes place in 1998-2000, a time of unprecedented prosperity in America. Do you think Ehrenreich’s experience would be different in today’s economy? How so?

Wages are also likely to be higher today than they were back then; although there hasn’t been much change at federal level (where the minimum wage remains just 7 USD per hour), many states have raised their own floors above that national figure as livelihoods continue to struggle against inflationary pressures. Some companies such as Amazon now offer a minimum wage which is substantially higher; currently 15 USD per hour nationwide – though these jobs are concentrated heavily around certain areas rather than being widely available nationwide like those featured within Nickel and Dimed’s pages.. This shift doesn’t necessarily mean that finding employment would be easier for a modern day Barbara Ehrenreich – indeed it could actually make it more difficult as employers tighten their hiring standards due increased competition – but it does mean that those able secure positions stand a better chance of earning enough money sustain themselves without turning towards illegal activities or relying upon social welfare support systems like SNAP benefits or Medicaid health insurance coverage– both options which weren’t available during her time period either way.

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Overall, given the changes outlined above along with other factors such as improved workplace legislation protecting employees’ rights over pay disputes etc., one can assume that surviving on minimum payments alone would be far more challenging for someone attempting what Barbara Ehrenrich did back then – even if they managed somehow find adequate accommodation somehow.. Therefore we can conclude that any experiment similar undertaken by someone today would be deeply impacted by our current economic climate – providing us all with an unflattering reminder about how little progress has been made towards creating genuinely livable conditions for lower income individuals despite two decades passing since her original journey took place..

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