Why Haiti Is So Poor Early break with France, ruinous Duvaliers among theories By Will McCahill, Newser Staff Posted Jan 13, 2010 8:39 PM CST 30 comments Comments People look at earthquake victims lying on the streets of Port-au-Prince after yesterday's earthquake. (AP Photo) (Newser) – With bad news still pouring in from earthquake-ravaged Haiti, Tyler Cowen pulls together some hypotheses on why the nation is so poor (noting that he doesn’t endorse all): Haiti gained independence from France too soon, in the early 1800s. Caribbean neighbors Guadeloupe and Martinique waited, and get a good deal of aid from France. Former French colonies tend to fare more poorly than, say, former English colonies. The dictatorship of the Duvalier family, beginning in 1957, “destroyed civil society … a more or less random one-time event which wrecked the place,” Cowen writes for Marginal Revolution. Due to its place in the slave trade, Haitians came from many parts of Africa, and thus the culture “has long had lower levels of cohesion and cooperation.” For more theories, click the link at right.