CANA Issues Cremation Statistics: The Story Behind the Numbers

An article excerpt from Funeral Service Insider (, written by Patti Martin Bartsche, managing editor of Kates-Boylston Publications. See adjacent table – data provided to CFSA by CANA.

Cremation rates have been steadily rising, and while the increase has slowed incrementally, there is no question that cremation is the new “tradition.” We have heard this story over the 15 years CANA has been publishing its annual statistics report. This year’s report is continued confirmation of this trend, and that funeral service better be prepared.

While the fact that cremation numbers continue to rise shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, Barbara Kemmis, executive director of the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) in Wheeling, Illinois, and Bob Boetticher Jr., immediate past president of CANA, say there are still many in the industry who are not facing facts.

“Cremation isn’t a trend or a fad – this is how it is today,” Boetticher says. Kemmis agrees. “Cremation continues to grow, and while we’re not at 50 percent yet, that milestone is coming soon,” she says.

According to the recently released annual CANA Statistics Report, the national cremation rate is still on track to top the 50 percent mark by 2018, and will account for 52.9 percent of dispositions by 2019.

Preliminary data for 2014 indicate that the national cremation rate was 46.7 percent. The report also reveals that while CANA projected the cremation rate to be 45.3 percent in 2013, the actual rate was fractionally lower – 45.2 percent.

While the annual growth rate has slowed from about 1.86 percent to 1.49 percent, that doesn’t mean cremation is waning in popularity. “The takeaway is that cremation is part of our culture in the United States and all across every state in the country,” Boetticher notes.

The slower growth rate figure, Boetticher adds, may not be a slowing at all, but may be the result of better data collection and analysis by CANA. “This year we looked at data differently,” he says. “A regression analysis was applied over a 10-year period, which helped us fine tune the picture. With the data getting better and better, we are able to look at it in different ways.”

And as CANA’s report notes, “Because death rates tend to fluctuate due to diversity in population size amongst the various generations, this can lead to a periodic decline in death rates, something we are now seeing in several states.”

It’s important to stress, Kemmis says, that the statistics do point to cremation rates continuing to rise, and while there will eventually be a plateauing, “We haven’t hit that plateau yet,” she says.

While there may be a slowing, David Nixon, owner of Nixon Consulting in Chatham, Illinois, and a partner with Heartland Funeral Solutions in Springfield, Illinois, continues to be adamant that funeral professionals need to embrace cremation. “I’m not too surprised that some locations in the United States, like the Bible Belt, have lower cremation rates,” Nixon says. “But as I’ve said before, I hope the funeral professionals in that area understand cremation and can talk to families about it, because while it’s moving at a slower rate right now, it could grow in leaps and bounds – and they’ll need to be prepared.”

Nixon points out that, according to CANA’s 2019 projections, 24 states – nearly half the country – will have cremation rates higher than 50 percent. “And that’s not counting the states that are at 49.9 percent,” Nixon said. “And what’s interesting is those states that are expected to top 50 percent are dispersed across the country.”

Also intriguing to Kemmis is that there seems to be this kind of state growth rate peaking around 50 percent and then slowing. For a number of years, Nevada has ranked number one as the state with the highest percentage of cremations, with Washington and Oregon switching between second and third. Yet those three states don’t show up in the list of the top 10 states with the highest growth in the percentage of cremations – Wyoming tops the list, followed by Vermont and Iowa. “We’re going to be using the research to draw a broader picture of what is happening across the country, beyond just the numbers,” Kemmis says.