BRC Census on the Burning Man Journal

The BRC Census blog has moved! From now on, you can find us at

For information about our department and the 2015 AfterBurn report, check out one of our first journal posts here.

For information about volunteering with BRC Census, visit our Volunteer Resources page here.

Preliminary BRC Census Results from Burning Man 2015: Older, More Experienced, Less Californian Than We Thought

This entry was originally posted to the Burning Blog on September 28, 2015. The online survey is now closed, so the Census survey link will no longer work.

censuslogoThe BRC Census Lab conducts research on participants in Black Rock City and online after the event. We ask lots of questions about demographics and people’s experiences, because we want to accurately describe the community and the culture of Black Rock City.

Below are the preliminary results from the Random Sample, the short paper form filled out by randomly selected participants entering Black Rock City. This is just the beginning of the 2015 data that will be released by the Census Lab. But for us to produce more findings, we need you — YES, YOU — to participate in the Black Rock City Census online survey, which is live now at If you attended Burning Man 2015 and have not already completed this survey, please take the time to do so now! The survey will close October 15. The more people who complete it, the more accurate our data will be. If everyone participates then it will be a true Census of Black Rock City!

The preliminary results are based on 2,270 forms collected by Census volunteers from randomly selected vehicles along Gate Road and Burner Express buses entering Black Rock City between Sunday, August 24 and Tuesday, September 1. This is the first year we’ve been able to begin random sampling five days before the event officially started, which means this year’s data will include a larger number of early arrivers to Black Rock City. This may explain some of the differences observed in this year’s results. The final results of the Random Sample may differ slightly from these preliminary ones.

Basic Demographics



Burner Experience



Burning Man Ticketing



Language and Residence



U.S. Politics



Please remember to participate at before the survey closes. Some people think that because they participated in one of our data collection efforts on playa, they have already “done their Census”. Actually, our main survey is the online one. The online survey is not the same thing as the Random Sample, the short paper form you may have filled out when you entered BRC if you were randomly chosen. It is also not the same as the Field Notes books that you may have filled out at Census Lab or at Center Camp Café.

Even if you participated on playa, we still need your online survey data in order to generate good information about Black Rock City’s 2015 population. So please participate today!

You will see that we ask a lot of questions in the online survey. This is because the Census is a collaboration between event organizers and several groups of researchers studying the BRC population and Burning Man culture. Part 1 of the Census asks basic demographic questions about the population. Organizers use these findings to advocate in favor of the community and the continued existence of the annual burn in Nevada, especially in dealing with authorities at the local, state, and national levels of government. Part 2 asks questions about this year’s event, which various departments inside the organization need to know in order to plan for next year. Part 3 are questions written by researchers conducting social science projects. These Burning Nerds plan to publish the results in academic journals and books. And if you are still hungry for more questions after Part 3… there are options at the end of the survey to continue helping these scientists with their research.

Be sure to come back here for future blog posts about our methodology and about what we learn once we start analyzing the online survey data!

Are you an artist?

Burning Man has long been an outlet for the creative community around the United States and even the world.  No matter what your medium, it is likely welcome on the playa. When most people think of the term “artist,” we imagine a person who creates art for a living, or perhaps one who does art-type things obsessively and nothing else.  Picasso, Michelangelo, my cousin, but not me. I take pictures, build things, or write a new piece of music or a story…  just for fun.  Being an artist can mean so much more than making your living from selling your art. The most accepted definition is “a person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria.” That is a seriously broad definition.

Many of us are artists, but not many of us are professional artists. The question asked here was very simple, and left the interpretation of the term “artist” up to the respondent.  It was simply “Do you consider yourself an artist?” Only 35% said that yes, they do consider themselves artists.  The largest percentage, 46%, giving a nod to the pros, said that they are not an artist, but they are creative. Finally, 19% said no, they are not an artist. How about you? Are YOU an artist? How do you define “artist” in your world?





Written by:  Wendi (Neverland) Corbin

Edited by: Steven Michael Crane (Indiana)

Gender Identities in Black Rock City

Written by Veronica Santistevan

Edited by Steven Michael Crane (Indiana)

Gender ratios often seem to be a tricky thing.  We want Burning Man to be open to people of all genders, without bias against any who might want to join the fun. Luckily, Burners represent all genders well. In 2014, 58.2% of Black Rock City inhabitants identified as male, while 40.6% identified as female, and 1.2% brought home the total with fluid gender identifications.

BM Gender


We have seen some changes from previous years in the proportions of gender attendance at Burning Man. Compared to 2012’s male count, we have observed a 2% decrease. The proportion of individuals attending that identify as gender fluid has also undergone a decrease at the event, dropping just by less than half of a percent. The female Burner population has made up the difference by increasing by slightly over 2% since 2012.

Gender Trended

BRC Census Lab Data Bashes @ Burning Man

As part of the event, the Black Rock City Census will be hosting 3 Data Bashes! For the academic or just data curious, come to interact with researchers and Census Lab data scientists to discuss their work and the data we’ve been collecting over drinks.

Census Lab is located in the Center Camp keyhole across from Playa Info and next to Media Mecca.

Data Bash 1: Play and Transformation

Date/Time(s): Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Hosted by camp: Census Lab
Contact Email:

Description: Learn about research on the Power of Play and Transformative Experiences at the Burn. Conversations will be led by Isabelle, who has done extensive research on play in the bonobo populations, and Countess, who is an anthropology researcher focused on play. Learn about their research while mingling with fellow Burning Nerds and sipping mixed drinks.

Data Bash 2: Diversity on the Playa

Date/Time(s): Thursday, September 3rd, 2015, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Hosted by camp: Census Lab
Contact Email:

Description: “Diversity on the Playa” will be led by Vernon, who led the “Black on Playa” event last year and Scribble, who has done research on Playa on economic and racial diversity. You’ll have a chance to hear about, discuss, and ask questions about our team’s research while mingling with other Burning Nerds and sipping mixed drinks.

Data Release Bash: 2015 Sampling Data Release

Date/Time(s): Friday, September 4, 2015, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Hosted by camp: Census
Contact Email:

Be the first to hear about the preliminary results of our 2015 sampling at the gate and discuss the findings with Countess, Manager of the BRC Census Lab, and other BRC Census leadership. Nicole will lead a discussion of the Ten Principals and how they are applied in the default world.

Arrivals and Departures

Sometimes, it can seem like getting into Burning Man can take forever! At times there are even major delays – just this past year the gate was closed for an entire day due to rain. Although the large majority of Burners do make the long, slow drive along the playa to the entrance gate, that is not the only way into Black Rock City. In our survey of Burners, we learned that about 4% of the community does not enter through the front gate in private vehicles.


The Burner Express Bus accounts for nearly half of the entrances not through a private vehicle at the front gate. Additionally, 0.8% of you, or about 500 people, entered through the airport, while the remainder used other transportation methods or shuttles. So, although the front gate sees nearly everybody, about 2,500 people total have other transportation methods.

Of those who do travel by private vehicle, the breakdown of vehicle choice is fairly even among two distinct groups. First, about equal numbers of vehicle users travel by car, RV, SUV, or trucks with trailers, at 20% each. About 10% use a pickup. And bus, semi-trucks, motorcyclists, and walk-ins account for a small minority of vehicle users. Based on peak population numbers of 66,000, about 900 people arrived without a vehicle.2014.ArrivalsVehicleType

Looking at the number of people per vehicle, most cars arrived with two people, while about 40% arrived with three or more; this carpooling was perhaps driven by the limited availability of car passes.2014.ArrivalsNumberInVehicle

Getting into the city itself is not the only part of the journey. For many people, driving from home to the event is doable, albeit long; however, many people cannot drive because to do so is unrealistic (if from the East Coast) or impossible (if international). As a result, the Reno airport sees a great deal of traffic from Burners flying into a convenient location prior to making their way to Black Rock City.

Most people who flew for some part of their journey arrived in Reno, at 9.7% of the BRC population. The next most common, and the largest nearby airport hub, was San Francisco International (SFO), with just slightly less at 9.1%. The remainder spread out among other California/Nevada airports. Finally, 0.9% flew into the BRC airport, matching those who stated they flew directly rather than drive (shown in the first figure, above).2014.ArrivalsAirport

Finally, now that we have an idea about how Burners get to BRC, what about the timeline? The population of Black Rock City was asked about their arrival and departure days. The figure below shows when people arrived at the event itself, and when they left at the end. There is a large spike on the first day for regular arrivals (Sunday), but notably, over 25% of the population of BRC arrived Monday or later, perhaps due to the large rainstorm that delayed many entries. On the other end of the spectrum, Sunday proved to be the most popular time to depart, after the burning of the Man. Even so, nearly 50% stayed until Monday or later, witnessing the Temple burn and to help clean up after the event.2014.ArrivalsDepartures

Written by David DiTullio

Edited by Steven Michael Crane (Indiana)

The Languages of Burning Man

Burning Man brings together individuals from all over the world to a single community in which everyone participates as equals. One of the most exciting aspects of this melding of so many different people is the exposure to so many different cultures and experiences. Representative of this diversity among Burners is the wide array of languages spoken in Black Rock City.

Throughout the week at Burning Man, each person you encounter has a unique story and often has journeyed from far away to reach Black Rock City. However, the majority of attendees are from the United States, and so it is probably not surprising that English is the most commonly-heard language at the event as a result. 84% of Burners reported that English was their primary language. (Importantly, this is not necessarily the language they spoke at the event.)

2014.PrimaryLanguageEnglish (1)

What of the 16% of people that primarily speak a language other than English? First, it is interesting to note that this figure has risen for 2014. Whereas in the past two years, about 13% of the city primarily spoke a language other than English, this figure jumped to 16%. Given the attendance of 66,000 people, this represents about 2,000 additional non-native English speakers at the event.

2014.PrimaryLanguageOtherTrended (1)

Looking at which languages Burners speak, there is, as expected, a wide diversity. Most common after English are two of the romance languages, French at 2.8% and Spanish, slightly lower at 2.6%. Given that approximately 66,000 people attend the event, these numbers work out to approximately 1,700 to 1,800 people each—a significant portion.

Russian and German also had strong representation among this group of non-English speakers, with more than 1% of the community. Over a dozen other languages saw representation of less than 1%, with representation from every continent except Antarctica. For reference, if a language was spoken by 0.1% of the population, that means that about 60-70 people were native speakers of the language. While that may not seem like a large number, given the number of people one can interact with on a daily basis in Black Rock City, it means that you have likely, at some point, met and talked with people that collectively speak nearly a dozen different primary languages in Black Rock City, whether you realized it or not!


Finally, if this wasn’t enough to demonstrate just how much reach Burning Man has across the globe, over 1,000 people spoke a language not directly surveyed. While some languages may have only had a handful of native speakers representing them at Burning Man, in Black Rock City even just one person can have substantial reach, spreading their knowledge and experience to hundreds of people during their time there. Next time you’re on the playa, pay attention to the languages you hear and the culture they represent—each is the chance to make a new friend, and learn something new about the world!


Written by David DiTullio

Edited by Steven Michael Crane (Indiana)

Camping by RV in 2014 )'(

IMG_3874 (1)

A few years back I found a playa wife who has an RV, and in our wedding vows that we took at the Church of Elvis, she granted me one day a year to come and stay with her in her RV. So now each Burn I show up in her camp on Saturday afternoon. She lets me in to her air conditioned parlor, bakes me banana bread, lets me shower, lets me sleep in a queen size bed and she washes my clothes. We all can’t be as lucky as this all the time on playa but I get to have it for one day.

RV are expensive – the price tag, the gas, the storage place when not in use, the upkeep – the cost is noticeable. This expense is reflected in our data showing RV ownership according to income. The probability of having an RV is 55.8% for those who make over $300k a year. If you made a $100k  to $150k, the probability is down to 36%. Those earning $50k a are 25.6% likely to camp in an RV, and that drops to 17.9% among those earning $25k a year. And believe it or not, 17.5% of people who make less than $7.5k a year show up to the event in an RV. But the most impressive fact was that 21.8% who reported no income at all also stay in an RV.


2014 data also show that 35.6% of virgins stay in RVs, and folks with 1 or 2 burns under their belts use RVs at a rate of 20.6%.  Veteran Burners with 3 to 4 burns were 13.6%  likely to have an RV and those with 5 to 7 burns were 13.6% likely to camp in an RV.  I would think the older you get the more needy you get for the comforts of default world but only 8.9 % of the people with 11 or more Burns own RVs.


The probability of having an RV by gender from the 2014 census data is 29% for female, 28% for male, and 24% for those who identified a fluid gender.


Meanwhile, by marital status,  40% of RV owners were married, 54% were not, and 6% of RV owners claimed to be married sometimes. While the probability of having an RV by marital status was 41.4% among the married, 23.2% among the unmarried, and 25.6% among the “sometimes” married, which brings me back to my one day on playa of marital bliss.



Written by Crow

Edited by Steven Michael Crane (Indiana)

Burning Man’s Economic Impact on Nevada

In 2014 approximately 66,000 people made their way to Burning Man in the Nevada desert. We all had to get there one way or the other via plane, bus, or automobile. We all traveled through or from Nevada. There is no doubt the influx of people traveling to Burning Man has an impact on the Nevada economy. But just how much money do Burners really spend? It’s a fair question, given it does cost the state money to host the event. As seen below, slightly less than 60% of our participants spend between $250.00 to $2,500 in Nevada before or after the event. In looking at both ends of the graph 37% spend $250.00 or less and just over 3% spend more than $2,500. The estimated direct spending by participants in Nevada for 2014 was $45 million. No small change! Econoic Impact-image-3   Let’s look at how this spending has been changing over time: 2014.NVspend.trended The next question is how do we spend our money in Nevada? You can see from the graph below most of us spend our money on things we need to attend the event. No matter how you get to Burning Man, you will need to eat and get gas along the way, at the very least.  Others sleep the night and some even recreate in the Silver State. If my fellow Burners are like me you may also find yourself buying a few last minute supplies (or even a whole camp’s worth) to make your experience more comfortable or enjoyable while you are a citizen of Black Rock City. 2014.NevadaSpendingWhere Do we stop along the way and visit Nevada’s other attractions? The answer to that question is a definite “yes.” 25% of our participants visited a park or recreation area on their way to or from the event. Coming from Oregon, my group does take the time to look for new parks and areas to explore on our way to and from Black Rock City. Part of the experience is getting to and from Burning Man. 2014.NevadaPark Enjoy your trip this year, fellow Burners, and please do be responsible guests in Nevada.

Written by  Tammy Lesueur

Edited by Steven Michael Crane (Indiana)

Information Sources for Burners

Written by Mu

Edited by Scribble

Without internet or even the daily newspaper our parents could rely on, we are forced to find out what is going on the old fashioned way; radio, word of mouth, and our trusty WWW (i.e., the What Where When Guide). Numerous staff members, volunteers and fellow burners put an immense amount of effort in creating all these different information sources about the event and how to have the most awesome experience possible.

While we at the Census, in typical nerd fashion, download the events calendar, a.k.a., the What Where When Guide, a month in advance and plan our Burn minute-by-minute, most of you do not. In fact, only a quarter of us look at it pre-event. At the same time, two-thirds use it at the event and most of us keep it for a souvenir, mine is typically worn to shreds by then end and only fit to be burned. Though even after painstakingly putting together our calendar, we still toss it aside once on Playa and wander around for serendipitous encounters, checkout things to do at Playa Info; or tuning into BMIR for the latest riffs and happenings. Then we wake up the next morning, look around and and grab the WWW Guide and start a new day.


What Where When Guide Usage*

In the absence of World Wide Web on-Playa, most participants found the WWW “Very” or “Extremely” useful.

2014.WWWguideHowUsefulWith very few commercial radio stations accessible on Playa and the sound camps segregated to the edges of the city, in steps BMIR and a full dial of on Playa broadcast choices.  Burning Man Information radio ( has been a fixture at BM since 2000, providing the “Voice of the Man” to anyone with a FM radio or internet connection. It’s unmissable as you walk by the loudspeakers on your way to Center Camp, but over 88% listen to this great resource on Playa from their radios. Interestingly, over 25% are listening to BMIR from their mobiles on the road to and from the event, making it a constant burner companion.


Listened to Burning Man Information Radio?*

Off-Playa, our options for finding out about Burning Man are greatly expanded. Jack Rabbit Speaks proves to be most popular. Word of Mouth from fellow Burners tends to the next most popular source at 90%. Then there is all the social media, the Burning Man website and everything else.

Information Sources*

People leverage all of these great off-Playa resources with different ends in mind.  We mainly want to see pictures and hear about BM Events. However, given how complex surviving in the desert is and the lengths people go to radically self-express, radically self-rely and radically participate, it isn’t surprising that information concerning  preparing for the event is useful to 44% of us, newbies and veterans alike.

Most Valuable Information Sources*

Most Valuable Information Sources*

What this emphasizes is the thriving mix of the Burner resources, leveraging both sources of information supplied by the org as well as the community itself in nearly equal proportions, reflecting the nature of Burning Man that is not a festival produced for spectators but an event co-created from organizers and participants.

* Note: survey participants were allowed to select more than one answer, hence the percentages of responses sums up to greater than 100%.