As first reported by the New York Times, the National Funeral Directors Associations ("NFDA") recently issued a report finding that cremations accounted for more than half of all funerals in 2016. This represents the first time that cremations have passed the 50% threshold. It is also indicative of a larger trend, as the NFDA forecasts that cremations will account for 63.8% of funerals in 2025 and 78.8% of funerals in 2035.
Though cremations accounted for 50% of funerals nationally, the New York metropolitan area has lagged behind other parts of the country, particularly the west coast. In Connecticut, the numbers were almost evenly split with 43.4% of funerals being cremations and 44.3% were burials. In New York, cremations only accounted for 41.9% of funerals, while burials were at 51.8%. Similarly, in New Jersey the numbers were 41.9% cremations and 47% burials. Yet despite lagging the rates in states like California, the number of cremations has continued to grow nationwide, including in New York.
The New York Times article discusses various reasons for this trend. One factor is that Americans are becoming less religiously observant, and even some religious denominations themselves have loosened restrictions relating to cremation. For example, the Catholic Church has acknowledged the growing use of cremation, and has moved to accommodate the trend, subject to certain restrictions on practices like scattering ashes. The other major concern is cost, as cremation usually costs about a third of a traditional funeral and burial.
Finally, the article discusses a variety of anecdotal stories about how cemeteries have adapted to the growing trend in cremation. Notably, the New York Times interviewed Mitch Rose, the president of Woodlawn Cemetery, to discuss the various new burial options for cremated remains that Woodlawn has adopted. These include creative options such as inside benches or boulders near a stream.
The full New York Times article can be found at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/nyregion/cremations-increase-in-a-move-away-from-tradition.html