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
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.