The economic downturn has left many people without the money to pay for funeral services that can cost thousands of dollars, and it's falling on cities and states to bury the poor.
The Associated Press interviewed coroners, medical examiners and experts from professional associations across the United States. These experts say while no organization or state tracks the total number of burials for the poor, municipalities are seeing more of them.
Unclaimed bodies are handled differently in every state. In Kentucky, counties have the option of burying the deceased or of getting a court order for cremation.
In Tennessee, unclaimed remains can be donated to a center at the University of Tennessee known as the "Body Farm," where students study decomposition.