The annual NFDA Cremation and Burial Report raised the curtain to some interesting data indicating that the cremation practices in the USA are on the rise.
According to the report cremation is now america’s leading form of final “disposition,” as the funeral industry calls it — a preference that shows no sign of abating.
In 2020, 57 percent of Americans who passed were cremated, more than double the figure of 25 percent two decades earlier, according to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA). By 2045, 4 out of 5 Americans are estimated to choose cremation over traditional burial, according to both the NFDA and CANA.
This massive shift, however, represents potentially severe revenue losses for the funeral industry.
Cremation data - what does it say ?
According to the 2018 report, the cremation rate is 53.5 percent, while 40.5 percent of Americans opted for burial, down from 45.4 percent in 2015. The report predicts that by 2035, the cremation rate in the northern area of the country will exceed a rate greater than 80 percent, as several southern states that selects the burial as a preferable practice, will increase up to 50 percent. Overall, the data predicts that in 20 years from now, the cremation percentage will raise approximately by 30 percent.
In 1965, only 4% of Americans chose cremation. According to the NFDA 2021 US cremation report, the projected cremation rate will continue to rise in the next years. Over 69.4% of Americans expected to choose cremation in 2030 and 78.4% in 2040.
But what’s caused this significant rise in the popularity of cremation? Experts say economic factors are the most significant elements, but they’re not the only ones.
Handmade Cremation Urn set "The Passage"
It shows the changing consumer's preferences for the end-of –life practices, which reasons can be traced back to the accessible prices, the various options for the cremains to be preserved, scattered, kept in a cremation urn for ashes, etc. These factors subsequently led to shift in the funeral business path. According to the report, the demand has forced many funeral agencies and manufacturers to expand their offers and product portfolios in order to meet the needs of the consumers.
For families across multiple states, there often seems little point in making the effort and expense to bury a loved one in a cemetery no one will visit.
Interesting to note is that cremation is becoming more popular in states that vote Democratic, include large transient populations or endure brutal winters that make the earth frozen solid. (Canada’s cremation rates are higher than those of the US.) Cremation rates are already near or over 82 percent in Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Maine. They remain half that in Utah and other States on south with large religiously observant populations.
CANA estimates that 10 to 30 percent of cremains are interred in a cemetery — placed in the ground or a columbarium, a storage area for urns — while 70 to 90 percent are kept at home.
The NFDA's observations assumes that this shift in the customer's preferences would be a game-changer in “the death care industry”, having a positive effect on the e-commerce with a 7.8 % increase. Additionally, the report shows that Americans who are not religious are more likely to consider a cremation for their family and friends. However, cremation ceremonies and religion are not always mutually exclusive. The Vatican explicitly allowed the practice of cremation in 1963, even though keeping a cremation urn for ashes at home is not legal in many countries.
These annual reports are an important data source for many funeral agencies, crematoriums and funeral memorials manufacturers that are trying to develop a modern business guidelines. For instance, the NFDA report states that more and more funeral homes are installing a cremation equipment, which is an example of how the business is trying to catch up with the raising trend of cremation.
However, one should be careful when gathering and using date on the Internet, especially for the funeral sector. Often, even the reliability of Wikipedia is being questioned. A fresh example of that is the research made by R. Allison who dug out some inconsistent information in Wikipedia's article “List of countries by cremation rate”. (For more you can read the whole article here ).
The updated information, which is hopefully correct, can be found at this link
In addition, as the cremation gains more and more popularity through Americans, the necessity for new original products and eco- friendly services is also growing. Nontraditional memorial urns for ashes with art design are also gaining popularity, as they are suitable for home and most of them actually look as a piece of art rather than an urn.
2021—A Second Year of Excess Deaths and Predictable Increase in Cremation Rate. Statistics from CANA
As the second year of a global pandemic, 2021 had comparable death and cremation numbers to 2020. The cremation rate grew predictably by 1.5%, but the numbers are shocking. Over the course of the past two years, excess deaths surpassed one million. In comparison, between 2015 and 2019, deaths increased on average 35,000 year over year. In 2020, the US death numbers increased by more than 500,000—and those numbers held steady in 2021. In each of those years, almost 2 million people chose cremation.
Top 10 States for Growth in Cremations
The table below shows the 10 states with the highest growth in the number of cremations from 2016 to 2020. Note that the rank order is defined from highest as 1 to lowest as 52. The rank number is the growth in the percentage of cremations from 2016 to 2020.
While the death numbers were driven by COVID19 and other causes of excess deaths, choosing cremation is driven by consumer choice. Deathcare business models, protective legislation, pricing, etc., have had no visible impact on cremation rate growth or decline over time. Not even a pandemic has disrupted the cremation growth pattern (the yearly percentage and average growth rate). But the sheer numbers—with more than one million excess deaths over 2020 and 2021—resulted in more families than ever experiencing deaths and planning dispositions. When families choose cremation for the first time it can impact future decisions, so this is a trend to watch in your business and community.
The question on many minds is whether these excess deaths will have a “pull forward” effect, resulting in lower numbers of deaths in the coming years. This may well prove to be true, particularly in states with high numbers of COVID deaths and lower reported death numbers in early 2022. However, the Baby Boomers are a large generation and may well even out the impact in 2023 and beyond. What the data does show is the unprecedented 2020 numbers of deaths and cremation cases were repeated in 2021.
Because of price, space and other reasons, cremation is a decision more and more Americans are making.