Social critic and journalist barbara ehrenreich 2001

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threat to any economic stability they may have. Social critic and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich (2001) left her upper-middle-class lifestyle for a pe- riod of time to see if it was possible for the working poor to live on the wages that they were being paid as restaurant servers, sales clerks at discount department stores, aides at nursing homes, house cleaners for franchise maid services, or similar jobs. She con- ducted her research by actually holding those jobs for periods of time and seeing if she could live on the wages that she received. Through her research, Ehrenreich persuasively demonstrated that people who work full time, year-round, for poverty-level wages must develop survival strategies that include such things as help from relatives or constantly mov- ing from one residence to another in order to have a place to live. Like many other researchers, Ehrenreich found that minimum-wage jobs cannot cover the full cost of living, such as rent, food, and the rest of an adult’s monthly needs, even without taking into con- sideration the needs of children or other family members (see also Newman, 1999). THE UNDERCLASS According to Gilbert (2003), people in the underclass are poor, seldom employed, and caught in long-term deprivation that results from low levels of education and income and high rates of unemployment. Some are unable to work because of age or disability; others experience discrimination based on race/ethnicity. Single mothers are overrepre- sented in this class because of the lack of jobs, lack of affordable child care, and many other impediments to the mother’s future and that of her children. People without a “living wage” often must rely on public or private assistance programs for their survival. About 205 Contemporary Sociological Models of the U.S. Class Structure pink-collar occupations relatively low-paying, non- manual, semiskilled positions primarily held by women, such as day-care workers, checkout clerks, cashiers, and waitpersons. underclass those who are poor, seldom employed, and caught in long-term deprivation that results from low levels of education and income and high rates of unemployment. 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 205
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Managing Human Resources
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206 Chapter 7 Class and Stratification in the United States • Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has famously called high schools “obsolete” and warned about their effect on U.S. competitiveness. Now, his company has a chance to prove that it can help fix the woes of public education. After three years of planning, the Microsoft Corp.–designed “School of the Future” opened its doors Thursday, a gleaming white modern facility looking out of place amid rows of ramshackle homes in a working-class West Philadelphia neighborhood. The school is being touted as unlike any in the world, with not only a high-tech building—students have digital lockers and teachers use interactive “smart boards”—but also a learning process modeled on Microsoft’s management techniques. (CNN, September 2006) (supervising others on the job), and (4) sale of one’s own labor (being employed by someone else). Wright (1978)

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