You're right. I like reading reporting on daily life, and I've been trying through interviews to get at the economics of daily life in my next book, Generation Yes, which is about women and money issues. The field of economics is so weird, I've discovered; economists hardly ever discuss how economic policy impacts on people's lives. Some economists, though, are wonderful exceptions, such as Heidi Hartmann at the Institute for Women's Policy Research in D.C.
As for James Agee and Walker Evans's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, well, I both love it and hate it. Agee is so excruciatingly and eloquently self-conscious about reporting on the lives of Southern, white tenant farmers in the thirties, the book is really about himself, and, as far as anyone can tell, it made little impact on the lives of or policies about tenant farmers. I've read and reread it, fascinated by Agee's self-reflexive explorations but impatient with his lack of engagement. It's a fun book to teach because it's controversial and it stirs everyone up.
Glad to hear you enjoyed the Ehrenreich piece too.
Happy eve before New Year's Eve, Maud