Hard Earned follows the lives of five low-income families across the US and takes an intimate look at whether the American Dream is still alive and well in the 21st century post-recession America. 

In the first episode of the six-part series, we meet Emilia Stancati, a 50-year-old who waits tables six days a week in two different restaurants. Earning a combined salary of $300 a week, it is a far cry from when she worked in the construction industry before the 2008 economic crisis, earning $80,000 a year.

"I'm 50 years old and I'm tired of carrying trays and running and getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning and tired of always depending for my money and how other people feel about me," she says. 

Meet the Hard Earners - The working-class people at the heart of our six-part documentary series [Al Jazeera]

De'Juan (DJ) is a 23-year-old from Chicago who is frustrated trying to balance his long working hours at Walgreens, one of the US's largest pharmacies, with raising his two young children. He starts talking to his co-workers about how to make a positive change and gets involved with the 'Fight for 15' campaign to raise wages for retail and fast food workers.

Clerical worker Jose and his girlfriend Elizabeth are looking for a way to move out of their parents' basements and give their son his own bedroom. An Iraq war veteran, Jose is trying to complete his degree at a community college while juggling childcare, working odd-hours, a wedding and buying a house.

As they fight against all odds to survive day to day in the post-recession economy, can their dreams survive the pressures at home and at work?

Source: Al Jazeera