I compare rural income poverty on three developing Tahitian islands in France's Overseas Territory of French Polynesia (Tubuai, Rurutu, and Raivavae). As French citizens and participants in the French welfare state, rural Tahitians have a high standard of living and social welfare. Nevertheless, economic opportunities are limited, development has been uneven, and social inequality and wealth differences are growing. Low-income families experience a relative income poverty in which they fail to achieve a culturally defined, minimum standard of living. I analyze the Tahitian social and ideological construction of poverty in which the existence of poverty is denied. I then describe the lived experience of poverty, showing that real structural constraints are ignored in islanders' assertions that their society is egalitarian and that poverty is a personal moral failure. I then analyze variability in the structural characteristics of poverty across the three islands, focusing on significant differences in 1) its incidence, 2) the population segments most vulnerable, 3) the frequency of various family and household forms and their experience of poverty, 4) rates of out-migration and island demographic profiles, and 5) islanders' strategies to avoid poverty. Finally, I discuss the roots of the inconsistency between Tahitian attitudes and the realities of rural income poverty.

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