Poverty is rampant in Haiti. In 2000 three-fourths of the population lived on less than the equivalent of two US dollars per day and half on less than one dollar. Ten years later, in the middle of this poverty, the earthquake struck. Poverty is no newcomer to Haiti. It has been a steady companion for the last half-century or even century. Low incomes have forced Haitians to leave their country to an increasing extent. The modern history of emigration goes at least a century back, to the movement of Haitian workers to Cuba and the Dominican Republic. With time, Haitians moved into the Bahamas, in the 1950s, and thereafter to other Caribbean islands as well as the United States and Canada. Emigration is the safety valve that makes it possible for Haiti to keep its nose above the water. The Haitian dream is to make it to the United States. Without the remittances of the émigrés, the equivalent of around one-third of GDP, would be in dire straits.
Many developing countries are stuck in small, low-productivity farms. Such countries also have poor property rights institutions, which create transaction costs towards reallocating land to large farms. I look at how transaction costs from historical property rights institutions affected the agricultural structure of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.