This paper examines factors associated with the cesarean birth rate, including medical condition and method of payment, in the largest maternity hospital of Fortaleza. Brazil. Data were collected on 5996 women who delivered at the Maternidade Escola Assis Chateaubriand from October 1980 to July 1981. All women were classified according to how they paid for their care: private (financed at least part of their care with own funds), insured (federal or state), or indigent. Private patients were found to be far for likely than patients in the other two groups to have cesarean deliveries, due primarily to the high percentage of private patients recorded as having prolonged or obstructed labor, combined with a high rate of prior cesarean sections. From this data, it appears likely that financial incentives did play a role in physician decisions on whether to perform cesarean deliveries.