Press release: 2018 Erasmus Prize awarded to Barbara Ehrenreich

01 March 2018
The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation has awarded the 2018 Erasmus Prize to the American journalist and writer Barbara Ehrenreich (b. 1941).


The theme of this year’s Erasmus Prize is ‘The Power of Investigative Journalism’. Barbara Ehrenreich is commended for her courage in putting herself on the line in her journalistic work. By leading the life of people in precarious situations, she gives a voice to groups in society that would otherwise remain unheard, and she lets us see life as people on the underside of society live it. As a journalist, Ehrenreich draws on various disciplines, uniting scientific analysis with literary elegance, and larding her focused writing style with dry humor. A major voice in the current debate surrounding the search for truth, she is an advocate of critical thinking and fact finding. Motivated by empathy and social engagement, she brings statistical data to life – for example concerning conditions at the bottom of the labor market. In doing so she embodies the Erasmian ideals championed by the Foundation.

Short biography of Barbara Ehrenreich:
Barbara Ehrenreich is a pioneer in the genre of investigative journalism. Her international breakthrough came in 2001 with her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, for which she spent months trying to survive on her earnings from what society calls ‘unskilled work’. In her subsequent work she often applied this technique of ‘immersion journalism’, as it is now known, for instance to highlight the obstacles encountered by the American middle class in scaling the social ladder. A common thread running through her impressive body of work is the deceptive myth of the American dream. Recurring themes in her essays and books are: the labor market, healthcare, poverty, and the position of women. Such themes are now more important than ever.

Among her most important works are: Nickel and Dimed, On (Not) Getting By in America (2001); Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream (2005); and Bright-sided (2009), on the dangers of ‘positive thinking’ at the expense of, among other things, adequate healthcare. Through her choice of subject and working methods, Ehrenreich is an inspiring example for journalists all over the world.


The Erasmus Prize is awarded annually to a person or institution that has made an exceptional contribution to the humanities, the social sciences or the arts. His Majesty the King is Patron of the Foundation. The Erasmus Prize consists of € 150,000 in prize-money. The prize will be presented in November 2018.

To mark the award of the Erasmus Prize, the Foundation is organizing a varied program of events about Barbara Ehrenreich and the theme ‘The Social Significance of Contemporary Classical Music’.