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

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!

2014.PrimaryLanguageOther

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)

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)

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.

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 https://blackrockcitycensus.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/aiming-for-an-unbiased-assessment-of-the-brc-population/ ), 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

[1] http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/acs/acsbr13-02.pdf


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

2014.RaceNonWhiteTrended

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: http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml)

By Rebecca Mason

Edited by Scribble

Aiming for an unbiased assessment of the BRC population

Summary of the challenges and implemented solutions

Written by  Dominic “Hunter” Beaulieu-Prévost

Edited by David “Scribble” Nelson-Gal

May 3rd, 2015

For many years prior to 2012, the Black Rock City (BRC) Census was actually a convenience sample. Specifically, the data reflected only the percentage of the population that chose to fill out and submit the paper surveys placed at numerous kiosks throughout BRC. For example, though we know that women make up between 40%-42% of the population historically, prior to 2012, the BRC Census reported majorities of women in some years simply because women were more likely to fill out the survey. These self-selection biases are also prevalent in a broad variety of demographic tendencies.

To correct for these errors, starting in 2012, the BRC Census started doing a random sampling of the vehicles arriving at Gate to get a relatively unbiased estimate of the BRC population. This random sampling could then be used as way to adjust the survey data so that it would more accurately reflect the population.

The random sampling procedures have worked well and we are quite confident that the estimates derived from it are good, at least for the covered populations. However, because of certain obvious uncovered populations, measures like the percentage of Virgins in the population have been over estimated. Population coverage is our main challenge and we have been improving the method every year to increase coverage.

Adjusted weight compared to earlier reported numbers for Virgins

Adjusted weight compared to earlier reported numbers for Virgins

The main issue

  • In a nutshell, the random sampling provides a valid estimation of the sociodemographics for the population of BRC citizens who theoretically had a chance of being randomly sampled. Primarily, the uncovered populations are populations that arrive either before or after our sampling windows as well as populations that arrive through a ingress point not covered by our sample (e.g., the BRC airport).
  • For the uncovered populations, the best that we can do is to infer the sociodemographics from those of the covered population. This inference can be done statistically, but it is less reliable and could be considered as a type of « informed guessing ».
  • Up till recently, our main solution has been to increase the coverage of the random sampling as best as we could.
  • Additionally, being able to access more precise daily population numbers from the Burning Man Org, allowed us to create more sound weights associated with arriving populations.
Calculated English Speakers using newer weighting procedure vs historic reported numbers

Calculated English Speakers using newer weighting procedure vs historic reported numbers

Yearly population coverage

In 2012 we sampled Gate entries from opening (Sunday) to Wednesday

Uncovered population

  • Early arrivals until Saturday
  • Late arrivals beyond Wednesday
  • Airport arrivals
  • Shuttles (they were officially included, but often refused to participate)

In 2013 we sampled Gate entries from Friday (pre-event) to Wednesday

Uncovered population

  • Early arrivals until Thursday
  • Late arrivals beyond Wednesday
  • Airport arrivals
  • Shuttles (they were officially included, but often refused to participate)

In 2014 we sampled Gate entries from Friday (pre-event) to Wednesday and Burner Express Bus (BxB) (who used a dedicated lane starting in 2014). Rather than a random sampling of vehicle occupants as we do at Gate, each BxB rider was handed a sample survey at the Gerlach transfer station and was asked to fill out the sampler forms which were then collected at the Bus Stop in Black Rock City. Spot checks of arrivers noted near universal compliance but not every rider completed and submitted their forms to the available Bus Stop kiosks. Conservatively, we estimated compliance around 60%.

Adjusted vs Historic calculation for Males

Adjusted vs Historic calculation for Males

Uncovered population

  • Early arrivals until Thursday
  • Late arrivals beyond Wednesday
  • Airport arrivals

Priorities for 2015

  1. Pre-event coverage seems to be the most important issue
  2. Airport arrivals (being explored)

Note on airport sampling: Sampling the airport arrivals is difficult because arrival patterns are sparse, making stationing volunteer samplers somewhat unproductive. Moreover, unlike BxB, we don’t have a mechanism to hand sampler forms to arriving participants at some embarkation point to be then collected on arrival. Finally, the proportion of burners entering through the airport seems relatively small (although unknown to us).

This said, we know the demographics of these participants are probably different due to the cost involved. Survey respondents who indicate “Airport” as their entry point are asserting significantly higher incomes than the general population and may differ in other distinct ways that could be meaningful. Additionally,  there is a goal to increase the number of people who enter through the airport in order the lessen impacts on roads leading to the event. Therefore, coming up with a way to sample participants who enter through the airport has become more important in making sure our weighting of the online survey is as accurate as possible.

Improvement in the estimation method and impacts on the estimated sociodemographics

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.

If you go back to the original Census reports for 2012 and 2013, you will see that the estimated proportion of virgins was estimated at approximately 39% for 2012 and 40% for 2013. As for our preliminary estimation in 2014, released during the event, it was at 41% of virgins. After improving the calculation method, we now estimate the proportion of virgins at approximately 35% for 2012, 39% for 2013 and 35% for 2014. The difference is not huge, but since the proportion of virgins can be a sensitive topic, any improvement in the estimates is appreciated.

Due to the changes in the calculation method, the estimates in the 2012 and 2013 reports cannot be directly compared to the improved 2014 estimates. Previous reports are not wrong, they are simply a bit less precise. However, to allow you to compare estimates from year to year, the 2014 Census report will include a new section: Trends analyses! You should thus expect in a few weeks blog posts presenting various trends from 2012 to 2014 based on our improved calculation method. We hope that you will enjoy this new addition to the Census report.

Editors note: Hunter is our primary statistician and this post explains the weighting process and how things have evolved.