Could You Live on Only $281 Per Month?

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"The Bureau of Labor Statistics found full-time 'private household workers and servants' earning a median income of $223 a week in 1998, which is $23 a week below the poverty level for a family of three.  For a forty-hour week, our pay at The Maids would amount to $266, or $43 above the poverty level."

-From Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, chapter 2, page 61


This particular quote exemplifies what I believe to be Ehrenreich's goal in writing this book based on her experiences: She wishes to astonish the majority of Americans who do not belong to the class of people below the poverty level.  I think that anyone reading this would be astonished.  This is the amount, if not less than the amount, that high school and college students work their jobs for, and usually they are not supporting themselves, and are rarely supporting a family.  After I thought of this, I immediately thought of single parents who have to support children on this pay.  Just out of curiosity, I looked up the expense of sending one child to daycare for the 9-5 workday (8-6 to allow time for driving).  I actually found that, according to at, "Assuming full-time day care for a 2 year old child on weekdays, according to Runzheimer International, the U.S. national average cost for full-time day care is $611 a month."  So, for a single working mother who is making $223 a week ($892 per month) this is the average price that even they must pay.  I know you can do the math, but here it is: that leaves $281 per month to pay for housing, food, utilities, and any other expenses, such as diapers and other baby products.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  At one point in Nickel and Dimed Ehrenreich says, "But I am realizing that, just as in Key West, one job will never be enough" (60).  One job was not enough for her, and she did not have to support a family.  Thank goodness for programs such as Head Start in Westmoreland County that can provide aid to people in these types of situations.  Ehrenreich may have a somewhat boring style of writing, but the facts say enough to make up for it: we are one of the greatest countries in the world, which is changing by the way, and yet people live in squalor and will continue to live this way unless we act.  I would rather be surprised by a statistic that says less than 5% of Americans are below the poverty line than be astounded by the quote above.  Oh, and by the way, according to a Press Release by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2006, 12.9% of Americans were below the poverty level, and I'm sure it has not changed much since then.



Juliana Cox said:

Wow! Erica, I really liked how you did some research to prove your point as well as Ehrenreich's point to show how hard it is to live on a wage that can barely support one person let alone a family. I actually remember talking to you one day before class about day care and how much things like that cost. It looks like it came inhandy for your blog entry.

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