On (Not) Getting By in America
by Barbara Ehrenreich
While I have some contentions with this book, as a whole I think it’s a good look into both the numbers and the realities of the working class in America. Ehrenreich is a journalist who went “undercover” as a woman trying to make ends meet by working minimum-wage jobs in three different cities. She wonders, at the beginning, what “tricks” the working class has learned to make the numbers add up, and admits at the end that there are no tricks. The numbers don’t add up without working two full-time jobs and living in squalor.
I think Ehrenreich gives excellent descriptions of what daily life might be like for the working poor, but she intentionally keeps herself floating safely above any actual experiences of poverty. For instance, she is very firm about the fact that networks are a key to surviving as a low-wage earner; extended families and groups of friends help each other out. However, in the name of journalism, Ehrenreich rushes home from work every day to compile notes about her impressions, and never attempts to rely on others for support.
But aside from that, it is worth reading, and I recommend that anyone interested in understanding and eradicating poverty read it.