“Children are the Wealth Of The Poor:” High Fertility and the Organization of Labor in the Rural Economy of Jean Rabel, Haiti

This dissertation explores the logic underlying what can be called a ‘pronatal socio-culturalfertilitycomplex’inruralHaiti. At 5.9 births per mother the rural Haitian Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is the highest in the Western hemisphere and has not changed significantly in 30 years (see Table 1-1 below). Despite a foreign-sponsored national family planning program begun in 1971, only 9.5% of rural reproductive-age Haitian women currently use contraceptives (ibid). Highfertilityandtherejectionof contraceptives by rural Haitians is associated with a variety of radically pronatal attitudes, customs, laws, and beliefs. In this investigation, conducted over a period of four years, the evidence strongly suggests that the observed high fertility and radical pronatalism are best explained by a high labor utility of children in a system where production and the satisfaction of the
most basic subsistence needs are accomplished within the socio- organizational framework of the household.