Keeping the funeral business alive

Funerals.

It’s a tough time for undertakers according to Philadelphia Magazine reporter Sandy Hingston. In her recent article “The Death of the Funeral Business,” Hingston says cremation is taking a serious toll on the bottom line of traditional burials and funerals. She points to the decrease in religious faith and the troubled economy as the two causes of the burial decline.

“If you take into account that it costs four times as much to have a full frills funeral, you'd have to have a lot more people die just to break even. They were counting on what they called a 'Golden Age of Death,' when the Boomers all began to drop off the earth, but we're hanging on and we're also wanting that less expensive cremation. There would have to be some really major trend shifts.” 

Hingston says Boomers are just the start of the shake-up. Millennials aren’t used to digging in roots for jobs or places to live, so why would they do it for eternity?

“People used to treat cemeteries like parks. You would pack a picnic lunch and go hang out with mom. I don’t see my age or younger ever doing that again. So you have these sort of dead zones where nobody goes anymore except for funerals.”

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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