May 24, 2018
Black Rock City Census 2017
Results from the 2017 Black Rock City census are available now, and I think the summary needs to be summarized. So here goes.
9,168 self-selecting people completed one (or more) census forms. That's 13% of the population. The BRC census people say they have good statistical ways to adjust the resulting numbers to make them reflect reality. I have my doubts, but they're the ones with college degrees in the subject, so let's go with that.
Total BRC "population" 69,493. I that means the number of people who came through the gate with a ticket. It does not necessarily mean that we actually had 69,493 people on the playa at any one time since people are free to come and go. It also doesn't count those who get in without tickets, like law enforcement and other third-party hires (water trucks, ice delivery, RV delivery, porta-potty people, etc.) I think last year they said the real number of people would be around 80,000.
The peak in personal income is $50,000 - $99,999. Those with personal incomes of $300,000 and higher (all the way up to those pesky billionaires) are only 3.6% whose well known powers of destruction should be easily counterbalanced by the 42.4% of us who suffer with incomes under $50,000.
But when you count household income, the category for billionaires and their ilk increases to 9.4%. Those under $50,000 drop to 25.8%. So the problem is that the poor people are also single...or at least single income sources for their household.
Male vs. female stays really steady through the years at roughly 58/40 with the difference made up by those who answered "fluid/neither/both."
"Ethnoracial characteristics" confirms what we all have seen: there are extremely few black people at Burning Man. Only 1% according to the survey. Compare that to Native Americans who report in at a rate of 0.5%. 77.1% white. But there is the category of "Other or Multiple" which was 9.3% in 2017. That could (being optimistic here) include a lot of people that might appear to be black to you or me.
Residence still shows the vast majority are from the USA (76.2%) but that's edging downward from a high of 84.3% in 2014. Canada stays in second place at 7.3%. Latin Americans (any place south of the Rio Grande) made up 3.3% and 4.4% in 2013 & '14, respectively. But those percentages dropped to 1.0%, 0.8% and 1.2% in 2015, '16 and '17, respectively. I'll bet we will see a further drop in 2018 numbers. I suppose Israel gets counted as part of Asia.
U.S. state of residence, Californians makes up 47.1% of the residents of Black Rock City [there should be a designated site where we could all meet and talk about which way we drove there and how it was]; down a bit from 52.3% in 2014. Nevada comes in fourth place at 5.6%. New York became the second most popular state of residence, surpassing Washington in 2015 (NY 7.2%; WA 6.3%) and was in second place in 2017 as well (8.2%). Massachusetts consistently lingers at the bottom of the top 12 states with only 1.5% in 2017. Occasionally, it is more popular than Florida (also 1.5% in 2017).
77.5% report English as their native language. Spanish is only 3.8% (the percentage who consider themselves "Hispanic/Latino" was 4.9% in 2017). Hebrew reports in at 0.8%—that's where we'll find those Israelis, plus a scattering from NYC too, I'm sure.
These are the numbers for "relationship status." The question was "In the default world, do you share your life with a partner." Answers were No 35.9%; Yes - not married 31.3%; Yes - married 25.3%; and "It's complicated" 7.5%. No question asked about monogamy...not even about monogamy on the playa. How is one to know?
Spirituality: "Spiritual, not religious" (yeah, yeah) 46.4%; atheist 24.3%; agnostic 15.2%; I don't know 7.6% [man, this is more of a godless horde than I had imagined!]; religious 5.5%; deist 0.9%. I repeat, Religious 5.5%. There you have it. That's every single religion and denomination you ever heard of, whether they have a nice building on Main Street or if they have secret live human sacrifices. 5.5%. And yet the Temple is the second most popular gathering spot on the playa (last year's Tree of Ténéré being a rare exception).
But when you actually ask about religious denominations, you get something a little different. 71.8% no religion; 7% Roman Catholic; 6% Jewish; 4.1% other Christian; 3% Other other; 2.6% generic Protestant; 1.9% Buddhist [only 1.9%?! I'd have guessed there are at least 40% playing at being Buddhist judging from superficialities]; 1.4% pagan (they didn't ask them to specify time of day); 1.2% Pastafarian - you include it as a choice, this is what you get; 0.6% Muslim (if that's true, then I've met all 0.6% of them - I think a lot just prefer not to openly identify); Hindu 0.4% [again, like Buddhists, not counting those who just play at it].
U.S. voting: I'm not entirely sure what to make of this, since I think they included all respondents in this count; That is, it wasn't limited to those claiming US residence or citizenship (they don't ask about citizenship, anyway). So 62.8% (of who?) say they voted in a US election in the last four years. 7.8% said they did not vote - are we to assume this means fully eligible but didn't vote? 29.5% said they were not eligible. Is that not eligible because they aren't American citizens, or not eligible due to age/felony status/not registered? 62.8% voting is way out of line with average U.S. voting, so it would be nice to know if it's because Burners highly value the democratic process or because of the way this census worked.
U.S. political parties. 5.4% Republican vs 51.7% Democratic; not like that wouldn't be obvious to a blind man. I would have expected a bit higher percentage for the Greens (1.8%) but OTOH, Burning Man isn't an environmentalist's dream and being a successful Burner means meeting the challenges of reality head on. Not saying that the Greens don't -- well, on second thought, I guess I am saying that.
If you continue down the report you can find other interesting statistics, like these:
- Page 27, the use of generators has almost caught up with the declining use of batteries (about 50%), while solar holds steady at about 40%. There are actually 0.8% who claim to use NO power source - so, not even a flashlight (or maybe they use only hand-cranked flashlights). Hard to believe.
- Page 28, just a bit under 30% say they lived in an RV/camper-trailer on the playa.
- Page 29, the population residing in placed ("theme") camps has risen from 54.3% in 2013 to 67.4% in 2017. 2012 was the year of the ticket lottery debacle, when the organization learned that, no, not everybody is equal; that those who build theme camps are the people who make Black Rock City. Beginning in 2013 the ticket system was rejiggered to give a preference to theme camps...and others who contribute solidly to BRC.
- Page 31, reasons for attending Burning Man. This was multiple choice and "to consume intoxicants" came in at 4.8% in 2017. Nowhere to be found is "to abandon myself to orgiastic sex" or anything even close to that. But 43.1% said "to play and experience freedom" which could cover a lot of territory.
- Page 32, important question introduced in 2015: "Did you feel safe in Black Rocky City this year?" 96.5% said very or mostly safe. 0.7% said mostly or very unsafe. It might have been informative to break that question down by male/female, but they didn't.
- Page 33, the second question boils down to "Did you make any new friends at summer camp, honey?" And the campers answer yes at a rate of 78.2%. "Good for you, honey!"
- Page 34, "After going to BRC, were you inspired to learn or practice any of the following skills?" The one answer to this that I really like shows how many are impressed by the DPW: 15.6% said yes to "construction/heavy machinery." If you liked to read about Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel when you were a little kid, you might love Burning Man.
- Page 40, which of the Ten Principles is the most difficult to practice back in the real world? 40.5% said "decommodification."
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.
- Page 43, total spending in Nevada (not counting ticket price) averages $667/Burner or a total of $46,351,831. Yeah, so thanks Nevada, for adding a tax just for Burning Man on top of that because obviously we were such a drag on your economy spending all that money and then going out to an empty place in the desert and building everything at our own expense and then taking it all away at our own expense. Yeah, we musta nearly busted Las Vegas, we were such a leech on the state budget. The smell of money could turn any state into California.
- Page 44, total spending on Burning Man, excluding ticket (and vehicle pass, I assume). This is for those who think Burning Man is "too expensive." 2.2% said they did it for under $250. 7.8% kept it under $500. 24.3% kept it under $1,000! I'm sure I've never exceeded a thousand in any one year, and several of my years were under $500, and I'm not miserable doing it. OTOH, there were those 7.8% who just couldn't keep it under $5000, but maybe a lot of that was for gifts.
- Page 45 ticket prices. This does not tell you much, because they ask only about "face value" not dollar amount. The face value is whatever is printed on the ticket and that can be $425 (regular price) or "half price" which is $190, or one of the high priced tickets for those who want to donate more: $990 and $1,200. So 86.6% paid face value. This tells you nothing about how much they paid. It's more of a question of who got ripped off (paid more than face value, 1.9%) or got a great deal (by paying less, 0.9%).