Barbara Ehrenreich

Laureate Erasmus Prize 2018

Theme: The power of investigative journalism

The Erasmus Prize 2018 was awarded to the American journalist and writer Barbara Ehrenreich (1941). In this sixtieth year, the Foundation highlighted as its theme ‘The power of investigative journalism’.

A pioneer of the genre of participatory journalism, Barbara Ehrenreich was commended for her courage in putting herself on the line in her journalistic work. By leading the life of people in precarious situations, she has given a voice to groups in society that would otherwise remain unheard.

Ehrenreich made her breakthrough with her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001), for which she spent months trying to survive on her earnings from what society calls unskilled work. She later described the downside of the American dream and the deceptive myth of positive thinking in Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream (2005), Smile or Die (2009) and in Natural Causes (2018). In 2012 she founded the Economic Hardship Reporting Project that stimulates and supports journalism around poverty and social inequality by a new generation of journalists.

Ehrenreich’s body of work comprises countless articles, essays and books. Recurring topics include: the labour market, healthcare, poverty and the position of women. Her sharp pen is soaked in humour. Moreover, she is a major voice in the current debate surrounding the search for truth, and she is an advocate of critical thinking. Motivated by empathy and social engagement, she epitomizes the ideals of Erasmus championed by the Foundation.