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Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

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Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich, book reviewAmerica has long been billed as the land of opportunity, a place where the streets are paved with gold and anyone who is prepared to work hard enough can buy themselves a part of the American dream. “I grew up hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that `hard work’ was the secret of success,” Barbara Ehrenreich writes. “No one ever said that you could work hard – harder even than you thought possible – and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.”

On 22nd August 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act brought about major welfare reform in the US. Couched in terms of promoting a work ethic amongst those in receipt of welfare payments, this act brought about significant change to the American poor, removing any automatic entitlement to payouts and restricting any that were received to a lifetime limit of five years. This reform meant that almost overnight, 4 million women (many of them with children) had to enter the work force in low-paid entry level jobs.

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