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Markets: Preserving Funeral Markets with Ready-to-Embalm Laws

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  • David E. Harrington
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    Abstract

    Thirty-nine states currently have ready-to-embalm laws, which typically require that all firms selling any type of funeral service (even those specializing in cremations) have embalming preparation rooms and all funeral directors be trained as embalmers. Ready-to-embalm laws are designed to preserve the status-quo in funeral markets, thereby protecting currently licensed funeral directors from the ravages of competition. These laws attempt to preserve funeral markets as they existed in the mid-twentieth century, markets that centered on traditional funerals sold by small, full-service funeral homes. The economic chemicals needed to preserve the status quo are harsh, leading to higher funeral prices and often poorer-quality services. The empirical evidence suggests that these laws reduce the cremation rate, the market share of Internet casket retailers, the penetration of national chains, and the number of funeral directors who are immigrants. They also appear to substantially increase the retail price of direct cremations and the cost of traditional funerals. Commissions in several states have recently recommended repealing ready-to-embalm laws, arguing that they are anticompetitive. The evidence presented in this paper should make their recommendations harder to ignore.

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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.21.4.201
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

    Volume (Year): 21 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
    Pages: 201-216

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    Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:21:y:2007:i:4:p:201-216

    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.21.4.201
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    1. Ono, Hiroshi & Zavodny, Madeline, 2002. "Gender and the Internet," Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 495, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 19 Aug 2002.
    2. Morton, Fiona Scott & Zettelmeyer, Florian & Silva-Risso, Jorge, 2001. "Internet Car Retailing," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 501-19, December.
    3. Judith A. Chevalier & Fiona M. Scott Morton, 2008. "State Casket Sales Restrictions: A Pointless Undertaking?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 1-23, 02.
    4. Ekelund, Robert B, Jr & Ford, George S, 1997. "Nineteenth Century Urban Market Failure?: Chadwick on Funeral Industry Regulation," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 27-51, July.
    5. Fiona Scott Morton & Florian Zettelmeyer & Jorge Silva-Risso, 2001. "Internet Car Retailing," NBER Chapters, in: E-commerce, pages 501-519 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:
    1. Pagliero, Mario, 2013. "The impact of potential labor supply on licensing exam difficulty," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 141-152.
    2. Pagliero, Mario, 2011. "What is the objective of professional licensing? Evidence from the US market for lawyers," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 473-483, July.
    3. Thierry BLAYAC & Patrice BOUGETTE & Christian MONTET, 2012. "How Consumer Information Curtails Market Power in the Funeral Industry," Working Papers 12-12, LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier, revised Apr 2012.
    4. Paolo Canofari & Giancarlo Marini & Pasquale Scaramozzino, 2013. "To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Prices for Funeral Homes in US States," CEIS Research Paper 260, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 11 Jan 2013.

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