Getting me cheap How low-wage work traps women and girls in poverty

Amanda Freeman

Book - 2022

"Many Americans take comfort and convenience for granted. We eat at nice restaurants, order groceries online, and hire nannies to care for kids. Getting Me Cheap is a portrait of the lives of the low-wage workers--primarily women--who make this lifestyle possible. Sociologists Lisa Dodson and Amanda Freeman follow women in the food, health care, home care, and other low-wage industries as they struggle to balance mothering with bad jobs and without public aid. While these women tend to the needs of well-off families, their own children frequently step into premature adult roles, providing care for siblings and aging family members. Based on years of in-depth field work and hundreds of eye-opening interviews, Getting Me Cheap explores h...ow America traps millions of women and their children into lives of stunted opportunity and poverty in service of giving others of us the lives we seek"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 362.83985/Freeman Checked In
New York : The New Press 2022.
Main Author
Amanda Freeman (author)
Other Authors
Lisa Dodson (author)
Physical Description
x, 236 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Authors' Note
  • 1. Girls Step Up
  • 2. Shifts to Work Any and All the Time
  • 3. Care Work for Cheap
  • 4. The Centrality of Motherhood
  • 5. The Broken Promise of Childcare
  • 6. Moms and Kids on a Cliff
  • 7. Keeping Us in Our Place
  • 8. Calling Us Up
  • Epilogue
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

Sociologists Freeman and Dodson write an illuminating primer placing the obstacles facing women with low-wage jobs at the forefront of intersectional feminism. The frontier of women's rights has largely focused on white, affluent women's issues, explain the authors, which does little to uplift working-poor women, the women who need it the most. In fact, because many affluent women rely on the care services performed by low-wage workers to "have it all," they end up perpetuating the poverty trap. The authors interviewed 250 low-income women over the course of 10 years. Using the testimony coupled with research and historical insights, they present a grim landscape and an inescapable system designed "to keep you down," where the women, most of them single mothers and most of them Black and brown, cannot get ahead and are asked again and again by family and society to sacrifice their potential and safety for others. A must-read for workers in the public-service sphere--including library staff--as invaluable insight into the communities they work and advocate for.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Sociologists Freeman and Dodson (The Moral Underground) deliver a moving examination of how underpaid work, unsympathetic bureaucracies, and family survival strategies set working-class American women up for lives of hardship. Many of the 250 women the authors interviewed grew up in families struggling with poverty, and they were expected to contribute their time and earnings to help make ends meet. Funneled into easily available retail, service, and care jobs that offered irregular shifts, low wages, and no benefits or paid time off, these women had few chances to develop skills that would lead to more stable work. The mothers profiled--many of them single parents--constantly struggle to find and keep quality childcare and feel guilty about being unable to conform to middle-class parenting and professional ideals, even as they recognize that those standards were set by people with more money, benefits, and time. Also discussed are frustrations with welfare regulations and with educational programs that don't provide the support necessary for women to be both a working mother and a student, as well as the fierce pride these women take in their abilities as mothers and caregivers. Though somewhat meandering, this empathetic and eye-opening study leaves a mark. (Nov.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Firsthand stories from people experiencing poverty in the U.S. are coveted by teachers, researchers, and readers, but these narratives can be difficult to come by. This volume by Freeman (sociology, Univ. of Hartford) and Dodson (emerita, sociology, Boston Coll.; The Moral Underground) helps fill that gap by focusing on how low wages and the lack of public services affect women workers, especially women of color. Readers will hear from women who work in childcare, eldercare, and restaurant jobs, roles that were labeled "essential" in 2020 but that offer few benefits, no advancement opportunities, and regularly expose workers to harassment and exploitation. Most of these women are trying to support families on their low incomes and find few avenues available to improve their situations. The authors' commentary and careful organization help weave the stories together and explain how expectations placed on women and girls often leave them feeling trapped in a lifelong cycle of poverty. The stories shared in this volume speak for themselves, spotlighting the frustrations, needs, and hopes of the women featured. VERDICT Readers will leave with a better understanding of the complexity of the lives of women working in low-wage jobs and what needs to change to provide them with the support they need.--Sarah Bartlett Schroeder

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