Nickel and Dimed


This is a critical sociological paper that will accomplish through a discussion of Enrenreich book, Nickel and Dimed. By interviewing a society member, whose life can be described as a low-wage worker, we will have a sociological view of the life they have and therefore be able to describe about the individual’s life in society.  We will use the macro level analysis, the conflict theory, whose competition for scarce resources and show how the elite control the poor and the weak.

According to Karl Marx’s writings on class struggles, the conflict perspective will as a result focus on the negative, conflict that is on our ever-changing nature of our society. We will discuss according to the interview done, how our society’s conflict has expanded beyond Karl Max’s economic look one of the most neglected and into such inequality areas like racial, gender, religious and political inequality (

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Probably one of the most neglected sections of the American society workforce is the low wage earners. Although the issue of minimum wage draws a lot of hot discussions both in social and political circles, it is surprising that no one is really interested in the lives of the real recipients of this legislation. It is cynical that when an increase in the minimum wage is made, the government and other stakeholders in society get more concerned about reaction of the employers rather than that of the low wage section. This is a paradigm shift from the founding fathers of our nation. This alone says a great deal about social discrimination and division that prevails in our society hurting the cause of the low-wage earners. Barbara Ehrenreich’s contributions to this issue have become immeasurable and brought to the forefront sociological injustice to the public minds. The book opens the public eye to the American working class struggles (    

We did an interview with an African-American man in his earlier 30s.  In the interview, we realized the same points that Enrenreich book highlights, while the U.S. has experienced a rapidly growing economy since the 1980s, wages have remained almost flat for the commoner doing the jobs said by Enrenreich. Rather than resulting to increased wages, these economic gains always go to the super rich which allowed them to leverage more political power thereby cutting down their own taxes. The person interviewed said she picked the job because she could not secure formal employment due to his skin color. To make ends meet, the guy is employed as a supermarket attendant and has a part-time job, a security agent. He works for almost 20 hours a day. The management at the second job is condescending while the workplace is undesirable nut life has to move on. He lives in the Oakland ghetto, California.

Mr. MacKay has a full degree but due to his skin color, his social status in the community has been ‘downgraded’. As culture has dictated for some time now, a man in his early 30s should have settled with a family, but for MacKay, he is barely able to support himself and as a result lives with his widowed mother. According to him, he will do the norm when he will be able to support an extra person or if he finds a working woman. To him, housing is such a central issue that he opted to stay with his mum. He equips that he could be sleeping in his car like a job colleague of his. He shares rent responsibilities with his mother. What worries him most though for now is that he has no comprehensive insurance policy and fears for his life such that in case of an emergency, he will not be able to cater for his medical bills. The Sociological Cinema attributes this to the fact that the superrich pay less tax and with less tax revenue, the economy has experienced huge budget deficits which has resulted to cuts in public services and social safety nets.

He pities that they are not paid overtime at the supermarket and they have no union to fight for them, they work from 6a.m to 4p.m but any grumbling will land one jobless. This is 10 hours without overtime pay.  He asserts that in his first job, fellow employees report them to management in case of a small issue, while thinking about promotion for them. Because the manager is well known for this kind of behavior, backbiting in their place of work is handsomely rewarded. The slightest inkling by management will result in joblessness thus they have to be careful. The managers have to see a hardworking individual or otherwise they get fired. Getting medical cover is the preserve of the management only.  According to the Sociological Cinema, this kind of behavior has led to fear and division such that the employees cannot come together, form a union that fights for them but only competing for individual promotions.

At the supermarket, he earns $5.80 per hour. They are counted a full day and without overtime, they have $46.4 per day implying they take home $278.4 a week. In his second job that he starts from 6pm to 12a.m, he is compensated $36 a day. In a week therefore he earns a salary of $494.4, he however regrets that if they could be paid overtime his life could be better off. He owns his late dad’s Volkswagen and drives it end month. On the other days, he usually uses public means to reduce fuel costs that he complains have skyrocketed in the past few months.  


This kind of behavior is exhibited in Enrenreich book and we conclude that without the purchasing power the middle class had in the past,  they are unable to jumpstart the economy resulting to what we are currently experiencing; a stagnated economy. Also we learn that lack of consciousness among the working people will contribute to divisions and result to anemic recovery. Enrenreich book is an excellent work that exposes many of today’s problems in the labor market. She however silently urge people to let things fixed up (Nickel and Dimed).  

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