Barbara Ehrenreich is a writer and journalist who decided to conduct an experiment and find out for herself what it is like to live on the minimum wage. For one month at a time she entered various communities, taking on minimum wage positions and trying to stay ahead. Ehrenreich detailed her experience in the book Nickel and Dimed. This books offers insight into the real lives and struggles of these people, showing just how difficult life is for them. As well as this, it is a striking account of how the lower class are treated by their employers and by people in general.
The first thing that was immediately noticeable in the book was just how hard it was for people on the minimum wage just to achieve the basics of having food and shelter. Ehrenreich started the experiment in Key West and was not planning to live an extravagant life at all. Her plan was to find a job that would pay $7 an hour and a place to rent at a low enough price that she could afford food and gas. Ehrenreich's plan is to live in a trailer home. However, she soon finds that even a trailer home comes at a rent that is too high. Ehrenreich describes this realization saying that "it is a shock to realize that 'trailer trash' has become, for me, a demographic category to aspire to" (Ehrenreich p. 12). This was surprising and shocking to read and changed my opinion about conditions for people on the minimum wage. I had considered that people living in trailer homes were struggling, but had never considered that they were struggling to the extent that just affording a trailer home would be so difficult. I also assumed that people living on minimum wage would be able to at least afford basic items such as food and shelter, even if they were not able to afford luxuries. This immediately opened my eyes to just how much people struggle just to get the basic essentials. This same problem is revealed again later in the book where Ehrenreich experiences the same thing in different towns.