Savannah Miller: The Futile Pursuit Of The American Dream Versus Nickel And Dimed

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The Futile Pursuit of The American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich was authored to correspond from her last novel Nickel and Dimed published in 2001. The Futile Pursuit of The American Dream was published in 2006. In Barbara Ehrenreich’s follow-up installment, she argues that white-collar middle-class people are also very limited in finding and holding on to jobs. There are considerable numbers of people losing their jobs in the corporate world. And the search for jobs these days are hard to get, even highly skilled positions for the educated solid middle class.

In the Western nations, all have been taught, even indoctrinated to believe the standard pathway to finding and having a better higher paying job with the life-success it brings, is going to college and getting a degree. Particularly, specified degrees in career paths highly in demand. Yet, like those who live on the poverty-line and below it, there has been hardship in those working in high-salaried industries. Statistics show there has been a rise of unemployment in certified working people. “ For example, it was indicated in 2003 that predominantly 1.6 million professionals were unemployed. The primary cause of why people are losing their jobs is the disturbance of technology “ (Ehrenreich.262). In other words, technology is replacing even highly skilled jobs and displacing people who can’t find new positions in the wake of the layoffs and employment-terminations.

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[bookmark: _Hlk32923814] In Ehrenreich’s undercover research which included a search for a decent job with comprehensible benefits and a fair wage, she states the looking is very difficult, the search is a job within itself. She concludes it is extremely hard for even educated and well-trained citizens solidly from the middle class, to find the right job that you actually enjoy doing and can see yourself doing for a period of time. “She would spend whole days contacting businesses trying to find a reasonable paying job” (Ehenreich.268). It became such a task, Ehrenreich developed some strategies to follow. “She would go to any interview available and get their contact information even if initially rejected hoping for a later follow-up if the employer couldn’t find aomeone” (Ehenreich.269).

[bookmark: _Hlk32929842] Ehrenreich makes it clear from the very start, that she would never actually have an economic centered catastrophic time in her life. Ehrenreich notes that if she was ever fired from a job, she would not really be fiscally affected by it because she is just performing an undercover experiment. But unfortunately, for so many job seekers and employees, the threat is so very-real and it can become a highly devastating in one’s life. Unemployment can have a terrible-huge impact on your health as well as your standard of living. “The loss of compensation can and usually does lead to unhappiness and anxiety” (Ehrenreich.270).

In conclusion, all of Ehrenreich’s initial expectations were wrong. Ehrenreich openly admits she thought this experiment would be easy because highly skilled positions have a prestige and she wouldn’t have to do any physical labor work. It didn’t take Ehrenreich long to realize this investigation would be far more challenging. If for no other reason, today’s employment environment isn’t cookie-cutter. It’s a mix bag of bottom line exploitation across many spectrums. It took a lot of her time and energy. And Ehrenreich learns that searching and holding on to a white-collar job, comes with all the complications and even more doing the same for lower wage positions. As the job market shrinks and the potential employee pool grows, exploitation is the constant. People need their jobs and they fear losing their jobs, employers know this and exploit it.


  1. Ehrenreich, Barbara. “The Futile Pursuit of the American Dream.” The New York Times Magazine. New York, New York, 25 July. 2006. 262-271
  2. Ehrenreich, Barbara. “Nickel and Dimed”. Henry Holt & Company. New York, New York, 1 Jan. 2001. 1-76


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