Mona Chalabi, a New York-based journalist, data analyst, filmmaker, and illustrator, is data editor-at-large for The Guardian. (December 2019)

Follow Mona Chalabi on Twitter: @MonaChalabi.


The Rising Cost of Not Living

Funeral charges have risen for the same reason that prices have always risen: a disconnect between demand and supply. For a combination of reasons—cost, changing mores, and environmental concerns—more consumers now want their remains and those of their relatives to be burned rather than buried, but the US funeral industry is largely stuck in the past. In 1960, when Jessica Mitford was researching The American Way of Death, just one in twenty-eight people who died in the US were cremated; today, it’s one in two—half of all funerals. Yet mortician schools still place a heavy emphasis on embalming skills, and more than two thirds of states (thirty-six out of fifty) require funeral establishments to maintain an embalming room. Those laws directly contribute to higher prices.