Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Urban Studies


Planning and Urban Studies

Major Professor

Gladstone, David

Second Advisor

Nelson, Marla

Third Advisor

Haughey, Patrick

Fourth Advisor

Howland, Marie


The concentration of the population and socioeconomic activities in the Metropolitan Area of Port au Prince (MAPAP) in Haiti has a negative impact within MAPAP and on the socioeconomic development of the entire country. This phenomenon, known as urban primacy, is increasing at an unprecedented rate in developing countries. Urban primacy in the Third World is explained by scholars studying the phenomenon and by dependency theorists. Economic decentralization, based on growth pole theory, is one of the most frequently used policies for slowing the growth of primate cities by focusing on development poles. In Haiti, the potential growth poles are the regional capitals that have a constitutional mandate to promote and manage the development of their region. I have tested some of the assumptions of dependency and growth pole theories on Haiti, using the eight regional capitals as units of analysis. Using migration, geographic, and socioeconomic data, I have identified the strongest poles and explained their attraction power and formulated policy recommendations that will increase the chances of successfully implementing economic decentralization. The research design is the case study. The data show that MAPAP overshadows the regional capitals at the national level and within the capitals' own region, except for Cap Haïtien. However, the regional capitals are the primary destinations for migrants within their regions. The strongest poles are Cap Haïtien, Gonaives, and Port de Paix. Their attraction power is explained primarily by their population size and by their connections to the international market. Due to the selection criteria of the units of analysis and the limitations of the data used, the support and rejection of the growth pole and dependency theories hypotheses are not conclusive for the testing of these theories in Haiti or the Third World. The Haitian government needs to be more aggressive in addressing the consequences of urban primacy by implementing a comprehensive economic decentralization. The January 12, 2010, earthquake brought light on the issues raised by this study. Fortunately, the Haitian government has expressed its vision for the rebuilding of Haiti with an emphasis on decentralizing socioeconomic activities outside of MAPAP.


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