National Geographic : 2011 Sep
• José Alberto, Murilo, Geraldo, Angela, Paulo, Edwiges, Vicente, Rita, Lucia, Marcelino, Teresinha. at makes 11, right? Not includ- ing the stillbirth, the three miscarriages, and the baby who lived not quite one full day. Dona Maria Ribeiro de Carvalho, a gravelly-voiced Brazilian lady in her 88th year, completed the accounting of her 16 pregnancies and regarded José Alberto, her oldest son, who had come for a Sunday visit and was smoking a cigarette on her couch. "With the number of children I had," Dona Maria said mildly, her voice conveying only the faintest reproach, "I should have more than a hundred grandchildren right now." José Alberto, who had been shing all morning at the pond on his ranch, was still in his sweat- pants. His mother's front room in the mid-Brazil town of São Vicente de Minas was just big enough to contain three crowded-in armchairs, a televi- sion, numerous family photos, framed drawings of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, and the black vinyl couch upon which he, Professor Carvalho, retiring head of his university's School of Eco- nomics and one of the most eminent Brazilian demographers of the past half century, now re- clined. He put his feet up and smiled. He knew the total number of grandchildren, of course: 26. For much of his working life, he had been chart- ing and probing and writing about the remark- able Brazilian demographic phenomenon that was replicated in miniature amid his own family, BY CYNTHIA GORNEY PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN STANMEYER 7 SEVEN BILLION SPECIAL SERIES A girl takes a solo spin on her shiny pink bicycle in São Paulo's Ibirapuera Park. Among comparable populations, only China, with its one-child rule, has seen as dramatic a drop in its fertility rate as Brazil. The difference? Brazil's decline was driven by women's choices, not state policy. SEVEN BILLION is a yearlong series on global population.