USA, Jan 2013, by Tyker Mathisen, CNBC: I have spent the past few months working on a documentary on the business of death, I've been to casket-manufacturing companies, funeral homes, mortuary science schools and the annual convention of the National Funeral Directors Association, some 6,000 funeral professionals. They were a sliver of the more than 130,000 people who work in what's come to be known as the "death care industry" - a $17- billion-a-year business in America. And what's the fastest growing part of it? Cremation. Every year in America, 2.5 million people die. In 2011, the last year for which numbers are available, 42 percent were cremated, according to the funeral directors association. That's double the rate of just 15 years ago.
So why the big jump in cremations? There are lots of reasons. One is the softening of the Catholic church's views of the practice. For centuries - until 1963, in fact - the church outlawed it and now under some circumstances, bishops can permit a funeral mass with cremated remains present. . But the main reason, as you might expect, is cost. Cremation is cheaper than burial. The average cost of a funeral today is about $6,500, including the typical $2,000-or-more cost of a casket. Add a burial vault, and the average jumps to around $7,700. A cremation, by contrast, typically costs a third of those amounts, or less. In a tough economy like the current one, cost counts a lot. The average cost of a cremation including a basic memorial service, runs about $1,600. Go online and you can find prices as low as $600 or so.