The film 'Nickel and Dimed: From the American Ruling Class' shows the real life of low-wage workers in American society. In this video, Barbara Ehrenreich went about trying to mimic their lifestyle and work ethic firsthand, living as a low-wage worker. I was very impressed at her angle of perspective to consider low-wage workers as the major “philanthropists” of our society. Often we say we serve someone or something, but everything comes from our own pride and superiority. After all, we are living with help from the people we thought we were serving. Also, I was able to look back on American style class and economic system through this video. Ehrenreich said that “people are living in a state of emergency, not even at a sustainable level of suffering in many cases due to a lack of food, inadequate housing, and insufficient childcare (meansofproduction, 2007).” Many of these people are hard workers who give of their time and effort without receiving a fair compensation. I think there should be a change in social structure and paradigm because there is a limit to government support. All members of our society will have to think through their better lives and find a solution.
Barbara Ehrenreich is a prominent journalist and writer who went undercover as a low-wage worker to find out whether they are able to maintain the basic standard of life. According to Nickel and Dimed, she worked in a restaurant, retail store, nursing home, and for a housecleaning service to get an accurate analysis of her question about living minimum wage ('Nickel and Dimed Plot Summary', 2015). She experienced what it was like to live a poor life that fits her low salary. She pointed out the extreme poverty and unfair treatment of the working poor, and the structural problem of sustaining their poverty. What she recorded and presented allowed people to rethink about the working poor, ignite many protests against unjust working places and change their perspectives on their working condition.
The main research methodology Barbara Ehrenreich used her study is participant observation. She jumped into the lives of low-wage workers who struggle to make ends meet and researched whether she could maintain her life at the minimum wage. The information she gathered during the research is mostly qualitative, rather than quantitative, the end results she drew was that minimum wages were not enough to help workers maintain a decent standard of living. She came to understand their plight by putting down her successful social status and experiencing the lives of the low-wage class. Participant observation is an effective tool to help researchers understand not only research topics but also interrelationships that are not proven in theory.
Barbara Ehrenreich’s research methodology can be considered scientific. Sociological research should conform to systematic and well-established methods, as opposed to philosophy or personal belief. Sociologists should prove the right or wrong of research subjects rather than the nuances of human behavior, and research results should always be objective and accurate. The scientific method is useful in sociological studies because it increases the reliability and validity of research results.
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