Barbara Ehreneich has misgivings about taking the assignment to live for three months by working at minimum wage jobs because she grew up poor and didn't have any desire to retread old unhappy ground. She finally undertook the assignment when she distanced herself from it enough to see it as an experiment. She set these ground rules for herself: she may not earn money by skills used in her profession of writing; she must do actual work and accept the highest job paying job offered to her; third, she must live in the cheapest housing available to her. Her other ground rules were for her protection: she must always have her car; she must never go homeless; she must not go hungry.
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Barbara Ehrenreich wanted to see if she could make ends meet in low-wage jobs. She did this in three different states: Florida, Maine, and Minnesota, and with three different occupations: as a waitress, a housekeeper, and a worker at Wal-Mart. While working as a housekeeper, she had to take another job as a nurse's aide at a nursing home. She was surprised to find just how physically and mentally demanding these jobs really were by the end of her experiment. She also noted that they are becoming increasingly more competitive, and that, obviously, the wages are far too low for the amount of work a good worker puts forth in these positions.