The geography of cremation

This map is a little macabre, but the extent of the regional differences is surprising to me. In September, the Cremation Association of North America published a report in which it estimated that a record 33.53 percent of all deaths in the US "resulted" in cremation. (In 1990, the rate was only 17 percent.) But as seen on the map below, the state-level rates vary widely, from 10.9 percent in Mississippi (about where the US as a whole was in 1981) to 66.9 percent in Hawaii. Religious attitudes probably account for much of the difference; cremation rates are relatively low in the Southern Bible Belt (and in Mormon Utah, where the rate is 23 percent) and high in Western states where churchgoing is less frequent.

The CANA predicts continued growth, but there may be a ceiling to the popularity of cremation. According to a chart in the same report, the cremation rate hit 70 percent in Great Britain in 1992, but it’s leveled off since then and is only at 72 percent now.