Essay about Barbara Ehrenreich 's Nickel And Dimed

Essay about Barbara Ehrenreich 's Nickel And Dimed

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According to a 1997 report of the National Coalition for the Homeless, “nearly one-fifth of all homeless people are employed in full or part-time jobs”. In the book Nickel and Dimed, On Not Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich, the author goes undercover in order to investigate and experience first-hand how life is for America’s “working poor”. The “working poor” are defined as individuals who have a full-time job, sometimes more than one, but still cannot afford the basics of shelter, food and adequate healthcare. As one can imagine, this led to many public health concerns. In each of the three locations visited, Ehrenreich realizes that for many, “getting by” in America can sometimes be a daunting task.

Ehrenreich began her experiment in Key West, Florida in the spring of 1998. She begins by finding employment in a restaurant for $2.43 an hour, plus tips. At the time this book was published, employers were not required to pay servers any more than $2.13 an hour. However, if this rate, plus tips, fell below the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, the employer was required to make up the difference. However, as Ehrenreich states, “this fact was not mentioned by managers or otherwise publicized at either of the restaurants where I worked”. At the restaurant where Ehrenreich first worked, the “Hearthside”, health insurance did not kick in until three months of employment was completed. A boyfriend of one of the author’s co-workers lost his job because of the time he missed after getting a cut on his foot while working and was not able to afford the antibiotic prescribed to him to aid in the healing process.

After realizing that Hearthside was not going to provide enough income to afford rent, Ehrenreich gets another job at “Jer...


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...law pertaining to sick leave had existed during the late 90’s, it is possible that many of her co-workers would have been able to have a better quality of life. Access to proper healthcare should never be underestimated, as one of the richest countries in the world, there is no reason why all Americans should not have the ability to take care of themselves and their families in the best way possible. In the field of public health, it is crucial that we all pay attention to the issues effecting underrepresented communities, such as the working poor, and try all we can to provide everyone the chance to live healthy lives. Books like Nickel and Dimed, allow those issues to be brought to the fore front, on a worldwide stage, and it is up to us to act to change them through policies, laws and interventions that will promote a healthier population in the United States.

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