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Cremation Rate Rises to 48.6 Percent as Public Attitude Changes

Tuesday, August 9, 2016  
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Two-thirds of Americans Say They Are “Definitely” or

“Somewhat Likely” to Choose Cremation


WHEELING, IL – The cremation rate in the United States continued its rise – to 48.6 percent in 2015, up from 47 percent in 2014 – reflecting a steadily growing public preference for cremation, according to a report to be released tomorrow by the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).

CANA projects that the U.S. cremation rate will reach 54.3 percent by 2020 and the cremation rate in Canada will be 74.2 percent then. 

The continual growth in the annual cremation rate reflects public attitude that increasingly favors cremation over traditional burial. In 2015, 65 percent of Americans reported they were “definitely” or “somewhat likely” to choose cremation, according to a recently released Harris Poll commissioned by the Funeral and Memorialization Information Council (FAMIC). That preference has more than doubled in the 25 years since 1990 when just 31 percent of people said they’d choose cremation.

In 2015, cremation rates grew in 48 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Alaska’s already high rate of 65.7 percent stayed the same as in 2014. Only Colorado and Hawaii showed decreases, according to CANA’s 2016 Cremation Statistics Annual Report, which will be released tomorrow at CANA’s 98th Annual Innovation Convention in Chicago. CANA is the preeminent source on cremation data for the United States and Canada.

“We have great confidence in our projection that the cremation rate will reach 54.3 percent by 2020,” said CANA Board President Sheri Stahl. “CANA’s track record on projections is extremely accurate, never varying more than 1.6 percent from the actual numbers, once recorded. That statistical accuracy, coupled with research showing that two out of three Americans say they’re likely to choose cremation, reflects a major societal shift toward cremation.”

The roots of this societal shift go back more than a half century. The CANA 2016 Cremation Statistics Annual Report shows that the total number of cremations, and the total percentage of cremations among all deaths in the United States, have increased every year since 1958, the first year for which single-year numbers are available. In Canada, that is true for all years except for 1968 and 2002. This growth in the percentage of cremations has occurred while the total number of deaths also has risen every year.

Canada’s rate of cremation – 68.8 percent in 2015 and 2014 – continues to be much higher than in the United States, reflecting a trend that has been true since the early 1960s. In 2015, every Canadian province bordering the United States recorded a cremation percentage rate of more than 61 percent, except for tiny Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, on Canada’s East Coast. CANA projects that Canada’s cremation rate will be 74.2 percent in 2020.

“There is no doubt that we are seeing a generational shift in how people choose to memorialize their loved ones,” said Timothy R. Borden, CANA’s president-elect, who will become board president this week at CANA’s convention. “With cremation, families have more flexibility in the timing and locations of memorial services, and many options for creativity and personalization in and how and where their loved one’s remains will be placed.”

In the United States, cremation rates are highest in the West and Northeast. Strong growth in the choice of cremation also is occurring in the Midwestern and Southeastern United States in states that traditionally have had lower cremation rates. From Nebraska, south to Texas, and throughout the Great Lakes states, cremation rates are up. In Canada, a similar shift is happening across the country. The CANA report illustrates this growth visually from 2011 to 2015 in heat maps of the United States and Canada.

To see highlights from the report, which includes international cremation statistics and historical data going back to 1876 for the U.S. and 1902 for Canada, visit 

About the Cremation Association of North America (CANA)

Founded in 1913, the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) is an international organization of over 3,300 members, composed of funeral homes, cemeteries, crematories, industry suppliers, and consultants. CANA members believe that cremation is preparation for memorialization. To learn more about CANA, visit