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.”


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