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November 22, 2014

Black-Owned Funeral Homes Struggling to Stay Above Ground

Black-owned funeral home

The funeral home business is a $20 billion industry in the U.S. Like many other small businesses, funeral homes were at one time locally owned and served the needs of their neighbors. But like many other small businesses, the environment can change quickly, leaving small businesses struggling to survive.

Such is the case with many African-American-owned funeral homes across America. Recent studies show the number of black students at mortician schools are about half of what they used to be, going from 27 percent just seven years ago to a current rate of 15 percent.

Changing economy

More and more people are choosing cremation over burial due to cost. Cremations are about 1/4 the cost of a traditional funeral. Nationally, cremations represent 42 percent of all options after death, and that rate is expected to exceed 50 percent by the year 2017. At 1/4 the cost of a funeral, this leaves many funeral home owners with a struggle to survive.

African-American funeral home owners especially are having a difficult time staying in the business. They have seen their neighborhoods change, industries and jobs disappear, and clientele who look elsewhere, outside the neighborhood, to save money.

Other changes

In addition, like other businesses, the funeral home business has also created chains, and these chains often offer very competitive rates, taking business away from the small business owner. Further, more and more families are no longer living close by, so cremation with a memorial service seems to be the best way to go. Also, families are smaller now, the marriage rate has declined, and 20 percent of Americans now claim no religion and so are less likely to choose a full-blown religious funeral service.

While some African-American funeral home owners are hoping the tide will change, others are realizing the need to re-market their services, using social media and television to do more advertising. For them, adaption means survival.

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