I'd like to address an issue that I've seen in the press, coming from people who should know better: the death rate. I've seen many articles discussing the softening or decline in the death rate.
I'm here today to tell you it doesn't happen; there is no decline in the death rate. Look at a chart of the annual number of deaths in the United States between 1975 and the present and forecast through to 2025. You can clearly see with very minor statistical variations, the number of annual deaths has increased every single year, and it's forecast to continue doing so.
There's one area where the death rate could be said to be declining, the age adjusted death rate. This uses a standard population age distribution, and that decline represents increases in medical technology and health awareness. People of any given age tend to live longer.
But what hasn't declined is the crude death rate, which measures the actual number of people who die every year per thousand people. That has gone up every year, and it will continue to go up, primarily as a result of the aging baby boomers. As they get older they drive up the median age, and even though people tend to live longer, they've got a head start.
Also, the population is growing in absolute terms, about 8 percent annually.
I repeat: there will be no decline in the death rate, no softening of the death rate.
Why is there a widespread perception of a decline in the death rate? All of the growth in the after-death-care market in the last 30 years has been in cremation. Casket burials have remained relatively flat.
Cremation disposition memorialization is a choice. Consumers will wait and search till they find what they want. There's no time pressure on them. They can wait for years till they find what they want.
This article compiled from an address presented by the author at the 2006 ICFA Annual Convention