It has been estimated that the country's total population in mid-1990 will total slightly more than 7 million. Growth had been high since official census taking began in 1920. The rate peaked during the 1950s at 3.6 percent per year. During the 1960s and the 1970s, the population grew at 2.9 percent annually; by the mid-1980s, the rate was thought to be roughly 2.5 percent.
The total fertility rate, although still relatively high, declined substantially in the 1970s. Official estimates indicated that half of all married women used contraceptives. Both the Dominican Republic's continued high population growth rates and field studies belied this figure, however.
The government began supporting family planning in 1967, but clinics were concentrated in the cities and larger towns. Both the Secretariat of State for Public Health and Social Welfare (Secretaria de Estado de Salud Pública y Asistencia Social-- SESPAS) and the National Population and Family Council (Consejo Nacional de Población y Familia--CNPF) offered family planning services. By the 1980s, both organizations were trying to make their programs more responsive to the needs of rural families.
Birth control encountered strong resistance from both sexes, especially in the countryside and the smaller cities. Although women did use a variety of substances believed to be contraceptives or abortifacients, there was considerable misinformation about family planning. Many men believed birth control threatened their masculinity; some women refused to use contraception because some methods produced nausea and other side effects. International migrants were more aware of the available options, and some women migrants did use modern contraceptives.
The traditional (non-administrative) subregions of the country included Valdesia and Yuma in the southeast, Enriquillo and Del Valle in the southwest, and the Central Cibao, the Eastern Cibao, and the Western Cibao in the north. The subregion of densest settlement was Valdesia on the southern coast, which contained the nation's capital and more than 40 percent of the population. Roughly one-third of all Dominicans lived in the National District. The other major area of settlement was the Central Cibao, which accounted for more than 20 percent of total population.
Administrations had attempted to control both population growth and its distribution since the 1950s. The Trujillo regime fostered agricultural colonies scattered throughout the countryside and strung along the western frontier with Haiti. Some were coupled with irrigation projects.
Beginning in the late 1970s, the government also set up industrial free zones around the country. Although the desire to increase employment was the government's primary motivation, the establishment of free zones had as a secondary goal the dispersal of industrialization, and thus migration, away from Santo Domingo. Intercensal growth rates on the subregional and the provincial levels reflected these trends. Puerto Plata grew at more than twice the rate of the nation as a whole in the 1970s. The southeast, especially the National District, expanded much faster than most of the country, as did La Romana.
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