12/14/2011 09:40 am ET

Cremation On The Rise Due To Struggling Economy [WATCH]

The economy is forcing households to cut back in many ways -- including how they rest in peace.

Americans chose cremation in 41 percent of deaths in 2011 compared to just 15 percent in 1985, according to the Cremation Association of North America, The New York Times reports. Americans have been becoming more accepting of the once-taboo practice since the 1950s, and recent economic pressures have led to a marked boost in cremations.

By 2017, it's expected that cremations will make up the majority of funerals, a study cited by the New York Times finds.

That's likely because cremation is so much cheaper. The average cost of a basic traditional burial was $7,755 in 2010, compared to between $800-$2,000 for a cremation. Roughly a third of those who chose cremation in 2011 say finances were their primary consideration, while only 19 percent who chose cremation in 1990 said it had to do with economic factors, TIME reports.

Not that the industry itself is arguing funeral practices can withstand any economic downturn. As early as 2009, the sector was feeling consumers' pain. "There are many families in our area that are just really on the edge as far as finances," Kevin Cease, a funeral director, told Minnesota Public Radio then. "It's really, really tough to go through a tough economic time and then also [deal with a death], it's almost a double whammy."

Many in the funeral business agree. "I don't think 'recession-proof' is really the best word for us," said J. Michael Krill, an owner of an Ohio funeral service. Around the official end of the recession, the funeral industry employed 105,000 people, according to figures cited by National Funeral Directors Association.

Indeed, as both economic and environmental resources become harder to come by, funeral practices themselves are changing.

Last week, Detroit police officials announced that the department would stop providing free funeral procession escorts, calling it a "resource drain," according to the Detroit News. The decision made Detroit one of the last major American cities to halt the practice.

Though cremation may be cheaper than traditional burials, it's certainly not the most eco-friendly. One cremation releases the same amount of pollution as driving 4,800 miles . In response, a number of alternatives are becoming popular including chemical-based cremation and natural burials.