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Understanding Cremation Growth

June 14, 2018

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Understanding Cremation Growth

WHEELING, IL— The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) has just released its latest Annual Statistics Report featuring final 2016 cremation data, newly released 2017 data, and projections to 2022. Using figures primarily obtained through state and provincial governments in the United States and Canada, CANA has determined the annual percentage of cremations to deaths and forecasts future cremation percentages. CANA is committed to gathering accurate and comprehensive cremation statistics to serve the needs of the death care industry and consumers. Our statistics on cremation are regarded as the most reliable and current available today.


Last year, CANA introduced new demographic data exploring various aspects of the growth rate of cremation (The Cremationist, v. 53, no. 2). The research revealed that when the cremation growth rate over time is measured, an interesting pattern develops. It can take decades for the cremation rate to hit 5%. In the U.S. it took nearly 100 years from the legalization of cremation in 1876 for the rate to reach 5% in 1972. After that, the growth rate is more predictable. The statistical model suggests the following pattern in growth rate:

  • Starting Point: 5%
  • Lighthouse Period, 5-20% • 10 to 25 years
  • Acceleration Period, 20-40% • 8 to 18 years
  • Rapid Growth Period, 40-60% • 8 to 18 years
  • Deceleration Period, 60-80% • 10 to 20 years
  • Plateau Period • 80-100% • decades

The 2017 U.S. cremation rate was 51.6%. The majority of states are currently in the Rapid Growth phase. The cremation growth rate is reaching its peak and will begin to slow within a decade—but cremation rates will continue to grow across the country. While Canadian rates followed a slightly different trajectory, both countries experienced a similar trend.

More and more of the U.S. population have chosen to roam across the country and around the world. Many have loosened their connections to their geographic origins and increased their exposure to new traditions. Conversely, there are significant portions of the population who are rooted to their hometowns and remain deeply connected to the traditions they grew up with.

Several demographic factors indicate a break from tradition in opposition to a more rooted environment, each side correlating with higher or lower cremation rates, respectively. It’s more important than ever for business owners to understand their community demographics and the segments of the community they currently reach.


In an effort to continually improve CANA research, particular attention was paid to updating and improving the methodology to determine crematory counts. For each state, three sources of data at the state and federal level were consulted. When two out of three sources agreed, that number was used. In the rare cases when multiple sources were unavailable, CANA members were consulted.


The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) has been tracking national cremation statistics in the U.S. and Canada since our founding in 1913. Based on this data, CANA creates annual statistics reports to document consumer preferences and measure the steady growth of cremation rates across North America. CANA Research is often used by the media to shape their articles and by CANA’s members to guide their future business plans. For more information on CANA’s statistics, visit

Read the full report in the most recent edition of The Cremationist or log in to

About 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.