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Most Americans Today Are Choosing Cremation – Here’s Why Burials Are Becoming Less Common

Written by David Sloane, University of Southern California

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The National Funeral Directors Association has predicted that by 2035, nearly 80% of Americans will opt for cremation.

When the first U.S. indoor cremation machine was opened in 1876 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the creator and operator, Francis LeMoyne, was severely criticized by the Catholic Church. The new method of disposal was viewed as dangerous because it threatened traditional religious burial and society’s sense of morality and dignity.

Less than 100 years later – in 1963 – English writer Jessica Mitford wrote the bestselling book “The American Way of Death” as a way to educate Americans about what she viewed as the awful commercialization of dying, death and commemoration. After a strong criticism of funeral directors, cemeterians and other associated professions, she ended with a plea for cremation.

However, as late as 1970, according to figures from the Cremation Association of America, only about 5% of American chose the method. In 2020, more than 56% Americans opted for it.

So what has led to such a dramatic shift today? As an American historian who wrote “The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History,” following that up almost 30 years later with “Is the Cemetery Dead?,” I know that people are choosing cremation for different reasons, depending on their circumstances.

Here are three main ones:

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