Black Rock City Getting Older

By Scribble

Age of 2014 BRC Population

Age of 2014 Black Rock City Population

There is a strong perception that Burning Man is an event for young people and, in the 2014 Census, a look at our Age data does suggest this to be true. Looking at the data in detail, we see a peak population around the age of 29.

2014 BRC Age data broken into buckets

2014 BRC Age data broken into categories (buckets)

However, this isn’t the whole story; the data is actually bi-modal. Specifically, though the primary mode is in the 25-29 category with 22.6% of the population and there is an adjacency in the in the 30-34 bucket at 20.7%, there is a secondary peak in the data around the 44 years of age and the corresponding bucket of 40-49-year-olds is at 17.2% (note some of this is associated with a larger age range for this bucket). What this implies is that there may be two or more factors that are driving attendance: one for younger participants and another for older participants.

Moreover, if we look at the trends of this data since 2012, we can see a decline in populations 24-and-under year over year while populations over 35 are showing a steady, year-over-year increase.

2012-2014 Black Rock City Age Comparison

2012-2014 Black Rock City Age Comparison

Not surprisingly, this growth in upper age categories the past 3 years has been driving up the average age of the population. The average age is now around 37 up from 35 two years ago. In fact, we see as a steady increase of one-year for each year three years running, as if it is the same population coming, just getting older.

Of course, we know this is not the case with over a 3rd of participants being first timers each year, this tremendous influx of new people to the event is ironically aging along with the event.

In earlier posts, we saw that the median incomes are increasing and education levels are increasing.

Average Age for Black Rock City Trended from 2012 to 2014

Average Age for Black Rock City Trended from 2012 to 2014

These data along with the shifts in age might just be a variety of manifestations of the same shift in the population. There is a significant number of people who have committed their lives to the event and it is natural that this population ages with the event. We also see that as Burning Man grows in the conscience of western society, more are curious about attending. Unfortunately, with a maximum number of tickets available, ticket scarcity may also be creating conditions where veteran Burners who have connections to established theme camps or BM functions (i.e., DPW, Rangers, Gate, et cetera) are able to secure their tickets where others who are new to the event are forced to compete with thousands of others during ticket sales. This is speculation at this point and we’re curious about exploring these questions further.


Bicycles and Burning Man: An Unavoidable Given?

By David DiTullio

After a series of articles on the finances surrounding the journey to and from Black Rock City, we turn now to something a bit more daily practicality: bicycles! As we all remember, bikes are a staple at Burning Man. Whether you’re using a bike you’ve had for years, renting on the playa, or bringing your fresh new bike from Walmart (some assembly required), nearly everyone makes use of the ultimate clean-air vehicle.

But just how do people obtain their bicycles? The Black Rock City Census asked burners that very question. The results are shown in the figure below.


It may not surprise you to learn that nearly nine out of ten burners arranged for their own bike while on the playa. The 2014 festival brought mostly clear skies, bookended by storms of rain and dust, but it seems that few wanted to brave the possibility of a trek from deep playa back to camp on foot.

On the other end of the spectrum, 5% of the BRC population did not have a bike at all; nearly half wished for one, while slightly more, or 3% of all burners, accepted their bike-less status. Whether these individuals drove mutant vehicles, or preferred to experience the festival on foot, we do know that there is a subpopulation that is content to defy the oft-traded advice that a bicycle is essential in Black Rock City.

Finally, about 8% of burners were able to obtain bikes through other means, such as borrowing from a friend who had a bike, or using community bikes maintained within their camps or other groups. Certainly, among the population of burning man, such resourcefulness is the norm.

While this post offers just an overview of the status of bicycles at Burning Man, perhaps we can glean some potential strategies of our own for next year: you may have an opportunity to lend your bike to a friend. Or perhaps one day you may decide to set the bicycle aside, to experience Black Rock City on foot. Though you may be a pedestrian, BRC is sure to be anything but.

How Much Did You Spend Going to Burning Man?

Written by Sangye

Edited by Scribble

Only the most naive newbie or the most desperately-optimistic hippie would plan to show up at the Burning Man Gate without a ticket in hand, hoping to find a surplus of tickets at the Box Office or a kindly scalper waiting for someone to relieve him of a pair.

Garnering a ticket for an event has become an annual ritual involving elaborate planning, camping out on the phone on sale-days, worming your way into the right theme camps’ directed ticket sale or slaving away for years to get a DPW pass. The difficulty in obtaining tickets these days has led people into believing that there must be a thriving black market for tickets. As noted in earlier posts, there is a rise in the median income of attendees which further exacerbates this suspicion. So in 2014, we asked Burners specifically where they got their tickets, how much did they spend to get it, and how much did they spend overall to attend the event to understand whether the overall costs were rising for people.

Tickets can range anywhere from $190.00 for low income tickets to $800.00 for pre-sale tickets. However, the majority of attendees buy their tickets for $390.00 per ticket. The graph below shows 79% of us paid face value for our tickets. Despite a few people selling tickets for $1,000.00 or more online, the community stubbornly protects the ideal if you resale your ticket you should not make money off that sale! I also feel it’s commendable to the community that 10% of our participants were gifted their tickets.2014.TicketCost


I know you can find Burning Man tickets for sale on line from several ticket sales outlets and private parties, so it might surprise you that, in 2014, less than 1% reported buying their ticket from a 3rd party vendor. When you look at where people bought their tickets, 72% bought them from the Burning Man organization and that number includes STEP. When people bought resale tickets, up to 19% of them purchased them from someone they knew.


You’ve paid the price of admission how much more is it going to cost you to get yourself to Burning Man for a week. According to the 2014 Census 68% of us spent anywhere from $500.00 to $2,500.00 to attend. That’s not too bad considering you cannot buy anything other than ice and coffee once you are “home” in Black Rock City. For 7 days in the desert, participants are paying from just under $100.00-a-day, up to $350-a-day for food, lodging, drink, transportation, et cetera. Thirteen percent spent less than $500 for 7 days or about $72 a day, and 19% of participants spent anywhere from $350 to over $700 a day. On average Burning Man is priced within what the average American spends on a vacation. According to travel section, most of us will spend an average of $150 to $200 a day on vacation. I will admit when questioned by family and friends is going to Burning Man worth all the time, effort and cost? My answer has always been without hesitation, “yes”.




Burning Man’s Economic Impact on Nevada.

Written by Sangye

Edited by David DiTullio

2014 approximately 69,000 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 to, through and 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, since Burning Man bring tourist dollars to the state.

The total projected dollars spent in Nevada by Burners in 2014 was $45 million. When you look at the trend over the last 3 years total spend in Nevada went from $42 million 2012 up to $55 million in 2013 and back down to 45 million in 2014. Why the fluctuation? That’s a good question and if you look at how we spend our money while in Nevada gas is a big purchase. According to the U.S.

Energy Information website gas prices in August 2012 were $3.36 a gallon, 2013 gas was at a high of $3.65 a gallon and in 2014 the price of a gallon of gas was back down to $3.36.


Projected spend based on Self-Reported Spend from 2012-2014

A little less than 60% of our participants spend between $250.00 to $2,500 per person in Nevada before or after the event. In looking at both ends of the graph 37% spend $250.00 or less and just under 3% spend between $2,500 and more than $5,000.

Self-Reported Burner Spending in Nevada

Self-Reported Burner Spending in Nevada

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 The Burning Man, you will need to eat, get gas, and stay somewhere along the way. If my fellow Burners are like me, you may also find yourself buying a few last minute supplies to make your experience more comfortable or enjoyable while you are a citizen of Black Rock City.

Categorized Self Reported Nevada Spend

Categorized Self Reported Nevada Spend

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 visit a Nevada park or recreation area on their way to or from the event. I know coming from Oregon we do 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. As Burning Man 2015 is less than four months away, this data reminds us of the excitement that is to come, and may provide some new ideas for your journey this August. Enjoy your trip this year, fellow Burners, and please do be responsible guests.


Political Spectrum Census 2014

Written by Veronica Santistevan

Edited by Wendi Corbin

As Becca Mason explained in the last BRC Census blog post (found here), the majority of Burning Man attendees orient themselves toward the left of the political spectrum.
The 2014 Census used a scale from zero to eight for respondents to select their political alignment.  The three left-most selections combined to about two-third of total answers!  This left the three center groups to take just under one-third and finally, the right-most options brought home the total with about 5%.


Reflecting on the 10 Principles of Burning Man, some liberal ideas have become BM Principles but as the data shows, Tories and members of the GOP are definitely not averted to the experience.  (For those of us that need occasional and friendly reminders of the principles– Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, Immediacy.)  While some of the principles don’t have much of a left or right quality about them, like civic responsibility, others have some lean to the left.  Radical Self-expression, for one, wasn’t something the nuns in private school educated my classmates and me about, nor will you find today’s televised Conservative espousing the importance of decommodification.

These left, center, and right boundaries are not definitive though and depending on specific issues, Burners answers to the question become fluid.  One way we separated these instances was by asking Burners where they felt they fell on the left to right spectrum (again on a scale from zero to eight), but specified either socially, economically, or environmentally.  Again, the general trend for all three categories lessened with each step to the right.  Interestingly, the economic scale stood out with the only three most right groups rising above 10%, leaving the left groups at 59% and center groups holding 28% of the population.  Social and environmental left versus right identification did not vary much; the left groups of each held over three-fourths of the sum, had center responses in the teens, and left identifications fell in around 5%. As mentioned before, some of the aspects of Burning Man are left-leaning.
Particularly, these are the social (Gifting) and environmental (Leave No Trace).


How Many Burns Have You Attended?

Written by  Steven “Indiana” Crane

Edited by David “Scribble” Nelson-Gal


In this post, we’re very excited to present some updated data on “playa age” aka “how many Burning Man events have you been to?”  In these data, we will see not only 2014, but also trends from 2012 and 2013.  Additionally, with our adjustment to the weighting of the Census (see Hunter’s excellent post*** on this methodological advancement ), these data are updated and more accurate than ever before.


First, let’s consider a simple question: how many 2014 participants were virgins?

Percentage of Virgins

Percentage of Virgins


So virgins account for 35% of the population. What about the remaining 65%?

How many times have you been to Burning Man?

How many times have you been to Burning Man?


Notice that the fourth bar includes both 3-year-burners and 4-year-burners, and the fifth bar includes both 5-, 6-, and 7-year burners.  Overall, it’s clear that the population is overall fairly young in playa age, with over 50% of the population on their first, second, or third burn of their lives.


It’s also worth noting that while virgins are a larger group than any other single playa age, they’re also quite the minority compared to all the other experienced burners taken together as a group.


On a personal note, I’m a little surprised to see myself so far to the right on this graph, in that 5-7 burns group, realizing that only 11% of the population around me has been going longer than I.  It gives perspective to the role I might play as a participant and volunteer at the event.  You might ask yourself, “Where am I on this chart?  Do I plan on continuing to come to Burningman in the future?  Why don’t more virgins decide to return year after year?”  Feel free to chime in in the comments.


Now you might be wondering, “How has the playa age distribution changed over time?”  Well, I’m glad you asked:

Number of Burns from 2012-2014

Number of Burns from 2012-2014

Here we observe that average playa age appears to be increasing over this 3-year period.  While the proportion of virgins hasn’t varied much, we see that compared to 2012, 2014 saw far fewer 1-year burners and an increasing trend across all older playa ages.

***Quoting from Hunter’s post to include relevant paragraphs about the re-calibration of 2012 and 2013 results:

“As mentioned earlier, population coverage of the random sampling increased between 2012 and 2014, which improved the reliability of the Census results. However, another important improvement was also made in 2014 on the calculation method. By discussing with the Burning Man Organization’s Communication department, the Census team was able to access more precise data concerning the daily population peaks during ingress between 2012 and 2014. This information was then used to recalibrate our estimation method.


By comparing our old calculation method to this new and improved method, we were able to assess the level of reduction in the biases. The main improvement was that we realized that the old method underestimated the proportion of early arrivals, which slightly biased most of the estimates. Hopefully, the differences between the estimates produced with the two methods were generally small. However, an important indicator was more substantially affected than the others: the proportion of virgins.”

Socioeconomic Diversity and Trends

By Mosy

The reported median income for Black Rock City Residents in 2014 was $53,937 and the largest percentage of residents reported earning between $54,000-$74,999 per year as individuals.

Personal Income of 2014 Participants

Personal Income of 2014 Participants

Over the last three years, the median income has continued to rise, from $44,061 to $51,084, to $53,937 in 2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively. Further research into national and state median household income coincides with the trend reflected in BRC Census data. Median household income for United States residents rose from $51,915 in 2012 to $52,250 in 2013[1]. Of some interest, the median household income for the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area was among the top in the nation with $79,624. California contributes the largest percentage of the BRC population.

Median Income Trended 2012-2014

Median Income Trended 2012-2014

Primary income earners reported similarly for 2013 and 2014. United States Census data are reported as an aggregate for the household, whereas BRC residents are differentiated into Primary and non-Primary income earners. In both categories the majority of burners report earning between $50,000 to $75,000 per year.

2014 Income from Primary Earners

2014 Income from Primary Earners

2014 Income from Non-Primary Earners

2014 Income from Non-Primary Earners

The below graph shows personal income trends from 2012 through 2014. Of note, the data for 2012 had a cutoff of $100,000 and above which is why it appears skewed to the more affluent.


Trended Income from 2012-2014

Trended Income from 2012-2014

If we just look at the data for the last two years where we have more differentiation in higher income levels, we see that each of those income buckets greater than $100k are growing from 2013 to 2014 with corresponding declines in participants making less than $15,000 per year.

Trended Income for just 2013 and 2014

Trended Income for just 2013 and 2014


Residency Census 2014

Where Are 2014 Burners From?

Burning Man attracts a wide audience including world wide participants from all over the world, but the far majority of Burners who attended the 2014 event in Black Rock City hailed from the United States. 83.5% of all Burners in 2014 came from the United States with 43.7% of Burners specifically from the state of California.


Each dot is mapped to a zip code code that Burners who filled out the census provided. The population coming from California are heavily concentrated in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego but you can see there are blips from all over the state. There are also other large concentrations around major urban hubs such as Seattle, Salt Lake City, Chicago, New York and Washington DC. If you don’t see your dot on the map, it may mean that when you filled out the Census, you neglected to give us a usable zip code.



Foreign Residents

Over the years though the number of foreign residents coming from Burning Man has shrunk. Where it was almost 1/5 of the population in 2012 has shrunk by 25% to 15.1% in 2014.


From this graph you can see the breakdown by major countries where each percentage is the total percentage of the population from that country.


Where more than half of foreign residents came from primary English speaking countries (Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand) and a 1/3 of all foreign residents being Canadian. I remember in my first year going across the playa and my friend insisted that Canadians are always present, he would yell out “Eh” and of course there was always a response. Looks like he got pretty lucky with his odds being 1/20.

By Rohan (edited by Scribble)

Education Levels of Burners

71% of Burning Man Participants Hold an Associate’s Degree or Higher!

Written by Sangye, a Burner since 2006. 
Edited by Scribble


I was somewhat surprised when I viewed the graphic below, and saw the level of educational attainment that is reflected within our Burner community.  It turns out Burning Man participants are ahead of the general public in education levels.  According to the 2014 BRC Census, a whopping 71% of us hold an Associate’s Degree or higher!

Education Level of 2014 Burners

Education Level of 2014 Burners

In a recent report from the Lumina Foundation, only 39.4% of American’s had at least a two year college degree or better. Burners have historically been better educated but the trend since 2012 has improved even more with 2014 seeing significant increases in those with advanced degrees.

Education Levels Trended from 2012 through 2014

Education Levels Trended from 2012 through 2014

You might be asking why Burning Man participants have a higher level of education. There are a couple of theories why this might be the case. When you look at our participants 84% of them are white. Lumina stated education attainment is still higher among the white population. The Lumina Foundation reported more minorities are getting an education then in years past. The fastest growing groups are Asian’s and Latino’s. The Lumina report found that the financial burden of getting an education still stops many people from attaining that degree or certification.

2014.EducationOtherWhat about other types of degrees or certifications? As you can see from the graph below about 13% of our participants have some other type of degree or certification. But the trending from 2013 to 2014 shows these type of degrees seem to be on the decline.

Trends for Other Degrees.

Trends for Other Degrees.

Racial Diversity in Black Rock City

During the 2014 Burn, the large majority of attendees identified as White. Burners who identified as non-white mostly identified as Hispanic, Asian, and/or Other (in descending order, including respondents who selected more than one race).

White vs Non-White Populations in 2014

White vs Non-White Populations in 2014


Over the past three years, participation among whites has fallen slightly and participation among non-whites has shown a corresponding slight increase. Levels of non-white participation in 2014, however, fell short of 2012 rates.

Trending percentage of white participants over last 3 years

Trending percentage of white participants over last 3 years


Though non-white selections comprised 20.3% of total 2014 responses, 7.7% of participants considered themselves people of color and an additional 8.0% considered themselves people of color sometimes. This indicates that burners identifying as people of color or people of color sometimes identified as multiple non-white races and/or burners identifying as a minority race did not consider themselves people of color.2014.RacePersonOfColorTrended

White only trended - i.e., those who had no other racial identity but White

White only trended – i.e., those who had no other racial identity but White

Comparing BRC’s ethnoracial makeup to that of large US metropolitan areas[1], Black Rock City has a much larger white only population. Only the Boston urban area comes close to BRC’s 81.1% with 77% of Boston metropolitan residents identifying as white alone. BRC’s black population in 2014 was significantly lower than any major US metropolitan area (San Francisco, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, and Boston). 2014.Race.USdemographicsEven though most burners live in California, BRC has a larger proportion of white only residents and a much lower proportion of black residents than the state as a whole.

[1] All information was taken from the American FactFinder (retrieved from:

By Rebecca Mason

Edited by Scribble