The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty
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The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty

Concepts, Research, Policy

Edited by Sylvia Chant

In the interests of contextualising (and nuancing) the multiple interrelations between gender and poverty, Sylvia Chant has gathered writings on diverse aspects of the subject from a range of disciplinary and professional perspectives, achieving extensive thematic as well as geographical coverage. This benchmark volume presents women’s and men’s experiences of gendered poverty with respect to a vast spectrum of intersecting issues including local to global economic transformations, family, age, ‘race’, migration, assets, paid and unpaid work, health, sexuality, human rights, and conflict and violence.
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Chapter 17: Female-headed Households and Poverty in Latin America: State Policy in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic

Helen I. Safa


Helen I. Safa Female household headship has long been associated with poverty, primarily because of the lack of a stable male breadwinner. But Chant and others have questioned this automatic assumption, showing that female heads are not always ‘the poorest of the poor’ (see Chant, 2007, and Chapter 15, this volume; Davids and van Driel, Chapter 14, this volume; Medeiros and Costa, Chapter 13, this volume; Momsen, Chapter 18, this volume). The vulnerability of female-headed households to poverty depends on a number of variables, including their demography (age, marital status) and household composition, their access to employment and other sources of income such as remittances, and state policy, which I shall focus on here. While Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic share a common historical and cultural background as Spanish colonies that came under strong United States (US) economic control in the early twentieth century, today they differ dramatically in terms of state policy. Cuba’s 1959 revolution established a socialist state, while Puerto Rico remained a US colony, and through federal transfers established an advanced welfare state. After years of dictatorship, the Dominican Republic established a democratically elected neoliberal state in 1965, but remains economically dependent on the USA. These differences in state policy dramatically affect their approach to the poor and female-headed households in particular. In the neoliberal Dominican Republic, the market reigns supreme and the highly indebted state is subsidiary to the private sector, which sees inequality to be ‘natural’ and inevitable. In a welfare state such...

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