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

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This dissertation explores the logic underlying what can be called a ‘pronatal socio-cultural fertility complex’ in rural Haiti. 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). High fertility and their rejection of 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.