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.

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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.

Cremation