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.

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