Relational Spending in Funerals: Caring for Others Loved and Lost

Published on Mar 21, 2021in Social Science Research Network
Sarah Whitley1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Terry College of Business),
Ximena Garcia-Rada5
Estimated H-index: 5
(Harvard University)
+ 2 AuthorsCarey K. Morewedge27
Estimated H-index: 27
(BU: Boston University)
Funeral rituals perform important social functions for families and communities, but little is known about the motives of people planning funerals. Using mixed methods, we examine funeral planning as end-of-life relational spending. We identify how relational motives drive and manifest in funeral planning, even when the primary recipient of goods and services is dead. Qualitative interviews with consumers who had planned pre-COVID funerals (N=15) reveal a caring orientation drives funeral decision-making for loved ones and for self-planned funerals. Caring practices manifest in three forms: (a) balancing preferences between the planner, deceased, and surviving family, (b) making personal sacrifices, and (c) spending amount (Study 1). Archival funeral contract data (N=385) reveals supporting quantitative evidence of caring-driven funeral spending. Planners spend more on funerals for others and underspend on their own funerals (Study 2). Pre-registered experiments (N=1,906) addressing selection bias replicate these results and find generalization across different funding sources (planner-funded, other-funded, and insurance; Studies 3A-3C). The findings elucidate a ubiquitous, emotional, and financially consequential decision process at the end of life.
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