Black Rock City Census Releases 2017 Population Data

Black Rock City Census data collected during the 2017 Burn is now available online for everyone to enjoy. Perhaps you were one of thousands of Burners to fill out our random sampling form on playa (we randomly sample vehicles, buses, and planes entering the event to improve the accuracy of the data we collect). Perhaps you were one of 9,168 phenomenal people who participated after the Burn by completing the online survey. Perhaps you visited us at Census Lab in Center Camp. Regardless, we hope you already know what we do and why we do it (this article will give you some background) and are as excited as we are to see our 2017 Census data.

Here are the links:

My experience of Burning Man 2017 lasted four months and changed my life. How many other attendees are forever changed by this event we all help to create? We have researchers who ask questions about just that.

Chipper at Man Base, 2017 (Photo by Christine “Epona” Shepherd)

In June 2017, I attended a volunteer weekend to help build the structure in the middle of the event, the Man Base. I spent the weekend working with an incredibly impressive team of builders, learned new skills (carpentry), and went home with sore muscles and a new outlook on life. During the six hour drive back to Oregon, I thought about my IT desk job and realized I’d rather be building. I quit my job and was gainfully “funemployed” by July. My first day of funemployment I drove back to Reno and officially started volunteering for DPW (Burning Man’s Department of Public Works) for the season, and learning to be a builder. Building is now my full-time job, and I’m back with DPW for the 2018 season.

Did you know that more than half of Burners in 2017 (56.2%) were inspired to learn or practice creating art after attending? See Figure 1, below. Figure 2 shows that the majority of people who were inspired to learn find those skills useful in their everyday lives.

Skills Inspired

Skills Useful

For me, participation is a big part of what Burning Man is about. It is, after all, one of the Ten Principles written by Larry Harvey, founder of Burning Man. These principles outline the ethos of all Burning Man-related events (including Regional Events).

Volunteerism Past Year

Gretchen, a 2017 virgin Burner and BRC Census volunteer says:

“Gifting my time to the community enriched my experience. It wouldn’t have been the same had I not volunteered. It’s immediate, easy, and fun! Without Rangers, Man Crew, and all the other volunteers, the event wouldn’t run. It’s the core of Burning Man. Being a part of the event in this way makes it even more profound. I now want to do more volunteering the rest of the year, and definitely plan to volunteer at the Burn this year.”

Volunteerism Inspired

BRC Census has teams of statisticians and researchers who aim to look at experiences like mine and Gretchen’s (and all of yours!) on a broader scale. Current questions we aim to answer are:

If we fast-forward to September, online survey respondents will find new and exciting research topics in addition to these. We’ve been joined by researchers asking new questions, such as:

  • “How do participants at the event care about the environment?”
  • “What is the carbon footprint of the event? How much gas do we use? How many of us carpool?”

We hope you enjoy the 2017 data. If you find this stuff interesting, consider volunteering with us, either on playa or even during the rest of the year. We love hearing new ideas and interested minds.



Written by “Chipper” McKay
Edited by Dana “DV8” DeVaul, Sarah “Picky” Williamson, and Abigail “Tinker” Doyle

Top image: Man Base during construction, one week before the event opens, 2017 (Photo by Dustin DeRyke)

About the author: Census Team

Census Team

The Census Lab is a volunteer team of information geeks, academic researchers, students, and general data nerds who have surveyed Black Rock City (BRC) residents since 2002.

14 Comments on “Black Rock City Census Releases 2017 Population Data

  • SK says:

    thank you Census team!

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  • Single Ply says:

    Don’t let the White House see the census. Trump would Tweet Storm about all the disgraceful-liberal-progressive-atheists who assume that people only have the best intentions, and too many transformative experiences.

    2018 will be the best Burn ever!!!

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    • Bob Johnson says:

      There’s irony in that you think liberals are all for freedom to do what you want e.g. experience Burning Man in the desert. Also, you assume every burner is a liberal which is clearly false.

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  • Foxes says:

    Hey Census folks! Love to see the data and very grateful for the work you do, as always. :)

    One little request:

    Do you think you’d be willing to republish some results, specifically the bar graphs, with a different color treatment? All those pinks are pretty low-contrast even for folks who can see a full spectrum of colors, and this choice seems pretty unfriendly to people who are colorblind. I’ve got all my rods and cones in good working order and I was still squinting to read the keys on some graphs. That most of us are probably going to read this on a screen isn’t making it easier.

    Thanks for considering it!

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    • ADA Maven says:

      Phrase your request as a reasonable accommodation for the visually impaired, which has a greater meaning under the US Americans with Disabilties Act that requires publications and websites to be accessible. I suspect the color choices were made without intent or desire to discriminate but mistakes happen, as ling as they get fixed.

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    • Farflung says:

      Hear, hear! This colorblind burner can’t read them either! Thanks!

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    • Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost aka Hunter, lead analyst at the Census Lab says:

      Thanks for the comments! We understand that it can be hard to decipher color-coded visualizations, both for those with visual impairments and also for anyone with a color-limited display or printer. For anyone who can read text in black and white, the data tables accompanying each visualization should provide a viable alternative. We will also look into options for generating accessible data tables formatted for screen reader users, to provide an additional option for those who need it. Once completed, this version will be posted to the Data Archive along with the current version. We’re open to discussing alternate strategies for future reports. Please contact census@burningman.org if you have relevant experience and are willing to share your expertise!

      Report comment

    • Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost aka Hunter, lead analyst at the Census Lab says:

      Thanks for the comments! We understand that it can be hard to decipher color-coded visualizations, both for those with visual impairments and also for anyone with a color-limited display or printer. For anyone who can read text in black and white, the data tables accompanying each visualization should provide a viable alternative. We will also look into options for generating accessible data tables formatted for screen reader users, to provide an additional option for those who need it. Once completed, this version will be posted to the Data Archive along with the current version. We’re open to discussing alternate strategies for future reports. Please contact census(at)burningman.org if you have relevant experience and are willing to share your expertise!

      Report comment

    • Tourist says:

      I hate to be pedantic but along the topic of readability; centering row headings went out of style in the mid-nineties. Please left-align your row headings, if possible.

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  • Gordon Gossage says:

    can you estimate the total number of unique attendees over the 5 years 2013 -2017 after removing attendees for multiple years? thx

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    • Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost aka Hunter, lead analyst at the Census Lab says:

      Hi Gordon, it’s an interesting question. As a rough estimate, I took into account the proportion of virgins and the total population for each year. It gives me around 170,000, but it’s a conservative estimate since it does not take into account pre-2013 veterans who came back. My best guess, for now, would be that roughly 200,000 participated at least once to Burning Man since 2013.

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  • Jos says:

    Wonderful thank you for this! Signed up to volunteer with u guys this year. Can’t wait to help out!

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  • Siren says:

    Thank you so much. Proof that we are changing the world one burner at a time.

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