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!

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.