Hey, did you notice us while you drove up to the Black Rock City gate? We were the ones wearing white lab coats, asking you questions, and having tons of fun. One of us had a fox face, one of us had glowing green Medusa hair, and several of us had bunny ears and fishnet stockings. On some days, we were all coated in a thick layer of dust.
If you met us out there, then you already know what this year’s Census sampling team was up to. We recited our informed consent scripts, and let you know that your participation was completely voluntary and anonymous. We explained how our volunteer researchers would use a few tidbits of data about you to get a sense of who, exactly, comes to Burning Man. And then you took four or five minutes to answer eight questions on a paper form, and voila!, you had given your first gift to Burning Man. The gift of data.
The backbone of this sampling effort, naturally, was our extraordinary volunteers! We had five sampling teams that covered five sampling shifts, some of them pre-dawn (we got to watch the sun rise together!) and some of them in the full blast of midday dust. We welcomed you home, and most of you were happy to help us out. Thanks! Then our datatypistas set to work digitizing your survey responses, so we could analyze the data.
But why did we do this? This year we expanded our Census project to include data collection from a randomized sample, which was a first for us. Why you ask?
The first reason is that, for ten years, we’ve collected data about the population of Black Rock City through a long-form survey, as part of the Census project, but it’s a “convenience sample,” and we really wanted to adjust that data with a “randomized sample.” The randomized data collected by the samplers at the gate were used to weight the data we collected in the census long forms, which means that we have a much more representative picture of our population. (And yes, we realize that this is not a true census, because we’re not able to collect data on all 50,000 plus burners at the event. But I hope you’ll indulge our playful use of the term “census” in this context.)
The second reason for doing the randomized sample is that we wanted to get sound science behind some basic demographic profiles of all you incredible people. Simple stuff, like age, gender, and citizenship. But we also looked for some other potentially useful data on questions about how often you vote, and how you got your ticket. In fact, the data we collected about ticket source and ticket price indicates that very few tickets to this year’s event were purchased from scalpers.
We have analyzed that short-form data already (see below!). And we are currently working on the re-weighting of the long-form Census data. We’ll use the sample data to adjust the Census data so that it more accurately reflects Black Rock City, and we’ll get those results to you just as soon as we can.
Here are the results of the random sample. We have given our estimate for each variable along with 95% confidence intervals–which means that we are 95% confident that the true value fall in this range. Enjoy!
Under 20 years: 4% (1% – 7%)
20 – 40 years: 71% (65% – 77%)
Over 40 years: 24% (19% – 29%)
Average age: 34 (33 – 36)
Female: 38% (32% – 44%)
Male: 60% (56% – 65%)
Both/neither/fluid: 1.5% (< 1% – 3%)
Percent of population who are at Burning Man for the FIRST TIME
39%* (32% – 45%)
*Note: We assume that this number is higher than the true value. Remember that we started sampling on Sunday, after many returning participants involved in major projects had already arrived on playa. Next year we would like to extend our sampling window to include these early arrivals, which will improve the representativeness of all our results.
Burning Man: 60% (55% – 64%)
friend: 27% (25% – 28%)
stranger: 6% (2% – 11%)
third party reseller: 3.3% (2.6% – 4.1%)
More than face value: 6% (4% – 7%)
Face value: 74% (72% – 75%)
Less than face value: 8% (5% – 11%)
Gift: 5% (3% – 7%)
Percent of eligible voters who VOTED in at least one of the last four federal US elections
83% (80% – 87%)
Political party affiliation among eligible voters
Democratic: 34% (30% – 38%)
None: 33% (26% – 40%)
Republican: 24% (18% – 29%)
Other: 3.5% (2% – 5%)
Green: 1.5% (< 1% – 2.2%)
Percent of the population for whom English is their first language
86% (81% – 90%)
Percent of population who reside in the US
76% (59% – 93%)