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Problems in Low-wage Work
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SOC 232: Gender and Society
Midterm Essay

      America is seen as the land of opportunity, where people from all facets of life can work and succeed.  Glittering stories of rags to riches have built hopes and dreams for many.  However, such stories are rare, and more often than not the rags status is stagnant.  This makes life extremely harsh for those in the lower class.  Many difficulties plague the lower class, including issues over gender, housing and health.

     Gender gaps have been prevalent in the work force in the past century.  Often men are paid higher salaries and have more administrational jobs than do women.  Men often advance quicker in their occupations, which is often termed the glass elevator effect.  This is seen in Barbara Ehrenreichs Nickel and Dimed, where many of her superiors are male.  The trend is even more prevalent in the so-called pink-ribbon, or womens, jobs where men experience the glass elevator to an even greater effect.  This is illustrated when Ehrenreich works for The Maids, a cleaning service, and her boss is an overbearing man whereas all of her co-workers are female.  There, she is paid a mere $6.65 despite The Maids receiving $25 a worker per hour.  Such differences in pay and status are common in the job field, especially in pink-ribbon jobs.

     Housing is also a problem for low-wage workers.  Ehrenreich details this problem in her strife to find affordable housing.  Such a thing is almost mythical on a low-wage salary.  At one point, she is forced to live in a room with no fan or air conditioning, no screen on the window, and no lock on the door.  Even in these conditions, she is paying a majority of her paycheck for the room.  C. Wright Mills worked with the idea of experiencing social problems as private troubles.  This is seen in the issue over housing.  The lack of housing is a social problem because not enough people can get affordable housing.  Accordingly, prices rise.  This creates a notable difficulty to the low-wage workers who can then not afford housing, and have to work extra jobs simply to get a roof over their head.

     Health issues are also very problematic for low wage workers.  Over 44 million working poor are uninsured.  Ehrenreich witnesses this problem first hand through her experiences.  She sees co-workers lacking front teeth and does not even bother to inquire about the insurance policy.  There is none.  This problem continues further as people physically incapable to do their job force themselves to due to the necessity of a paycheck.  Employers tell her co-workers to work through it; even if it happened to be a fractured ankle and working through it meant walking around pushing a vacuum.  Such occurrences greatly reduce the health and life expectancy of low-wage workers.  Many working poor also smoke as a way of releasing energy and relaxing.  Smoking is very detrimental to ones health, furthering the health issues of the lower class. 

     The harsh realities faced by the working poor are commonplace.  Women are usually trapped in low-level jobs with lower salaries, while men rise to the top.  Large-scale problems affect the poor dramatically, as is easily seen in issues over housing.  Health problems often plague the working poor, yet they very rarely have adequate, if any, insurance.  The lower class faces many problems in many aspects of their lives.

Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed can be related to a number of the points discussed in both lecture and Renzetti and Curran.  Similarly, many aspects of the R&C book and lecture can illumintae Ehrenreich's discussions.
  a)Interrelate at least one aspect of Nickel and Dimed to lecture AND R&C, specifying exactly the location and sources of what you are interrelating.
  b) Interrelate at least one aspect of lecture and/or R&C to so aspect(s) of Nickel and Dimed, specifying exactly the location and sources of what you are interrelating.