Supply & Demand

Conventional funerals run by funeral homes cost thousands of dollars, often $7,000 - $10,000 or higher.  Why are prices so high? One reason is that there are TOO MANY funeral homes.  Surprised?  You might think that extra competition would lead to lower the prices, but that is not what is happening. In most states the number of funeral homes far exceeds the number that could be supported, full-time, by the death-rate. So wrote Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carson in their book, Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death (2011), adding that  "the funeral bill is likely to be severely inflated to order to support  under-utilized staff and facilities."  For Massachusetts, they calculated (using 2009 death statistics from CDC) that 207 funeral homes were needed, rather than the 644 then in operation.  Laurie Powsner has just updated these calculations for each state; here are the Massachusetts numbers based on death data from 2012, FH data from 2013, with # needed to provide 1 funeral/day, 5 days/wk, 50 wks/yr :

 MA    52,583 deaths    519 FHs    210 needed

You can see that an adjustment is underway. The number of FHs has dropped, but still exceeds the number needed for fulltime operation.  That means that the fixed costs of their facilities and staff have to be covered by part-time operation. 

Our 2014 Funeral Home Price Survey is now underway.  We are gathering price lists from the FHs in western Massachusetts. Volunteers welcome! If you could make a few phone calls or visits to FHs near your home, let us know. Thank you! 

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed here in "Sandy's Blog" are written by one individual (volunteer Sandy Ward) and may or may not reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.