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

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  • David E. Harrington

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.

Suggested Citation

  • David E. Harrington, 2007. "Markets: Preserving Funeral Markets with Ready-to-Embalm Laws," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 201-216, Fall.
  • 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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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.21.4.201
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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, February.
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    5. Morton, Fiona Scott & Zettelmeyer, Florian & Silva-Risso, Jorge, 2001. "Internet Car Retailing," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 501-519, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:inr:wpaper:248291 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Jerry Ellig, 2015. "State funeral regulations: inside the black box," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 48(1), pages 97-123, August.
    3. David E. Harrington & Jaret Treber, 2020. "Constraining Competition With State Mandated Facility Requirements," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 38(4), pages 659-674, October.
    4. Conor Norris & Edward J. Timmons, 2020. "Restoring vision to consumers and competition to the marketplace: analyzing the effects of required prescription release," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 57(1), pages 1-19, February.
    5. Canofari Paolo & Marini Giancarlo & Scaramozzino Pasquale, 2014. "To sleep, perchance to dream: Prices for burial spaces in US states," wp.comunite 0114, Department of Communication, University of Teramo.
    6. Thierry Blayac & Patrice Bougette & Christian Montet, 2014. "How consumer information curtails market power in the funeral industry," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 421-437, June.
    7. Daniel J. Smith & Noah J. Trudeau, 2019. "The Undertaker’s Cut: Challenging the Rational Basis for Casket Licensure," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 34(Summer 20), pages 23-41.
    8. Canofari, Paolo & Marini, Giancarlo & Scaramozzino, Pasquale, 2017. "The importance of being remembered: Prices for cemetery plots in the US," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 638-645.
    9. Pagliero, Mario, 2013. "The impact of potential labor supply on licensing exam difficulty," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 141-152.
    10. Alison Cathles & David E. Harrington & Kathy Krynski, 2010. "The Gender Gap in Funeral Directors: Burying Women with Ready‐to‐Embalm Laws?," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(4), pages 688-705, December.
    11. 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.
    12. 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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