Census 2018: Preliminary Results and DEADLINE EXTENDED!

Every year, Black Rock City Census hosts a number of events at the Lab, but none is more hotly-anticipated among us nerds than the Preliminary Results Data Bash. As many of you know, BRC Census collects data while on playa from randomly-selected participants entering the event. Because those participants are randomly selected, the data they provide are used to weight (adjust) the results of the online survey, which we ask everyone to fill out if they attended Burning Man 2018. (Choose! Choose! Give the gift of your data! The survey will close on October 22!)

Volunteer Coordinators Chipper, Hunter, and Sonder during 2018 volunteer training in the Census Lab Classroom (photo by DV8)

What you may not know is that we also have a talented, hardworking crew of volunteers who take those thousands of forms (yes, thousands!) and manually enter the data into spreadsheets during the event. Our fearless and phlegmatic Lead Analyst and Lead Statistician then spend all day Thursday (and sometimes all night Thursday — Sorry, Hunter and Murrs!) cleaning and analyzing the data. On Friday afternoon, BRC Census brings you the preliminary results of who is on the playa right at that moment. Pretty neat, eh?

This year, we thought you might like to see some of those preliminary results, and how this year’s population compares with previous years’. A caveat—these are not the final results. Final results are based on both the random sample and the online survey, happening NOW through October 22 (we’re extending our original deadline to give everyone some extra time to participate). Even if you participated in the random sample, or filled out the Field Notes books on-playa, or filled out some other form that asked questions about your demographics, you have not yet truly participated in the Census! Visit census.burningman.org and gift us 30 minutes or less of your time (and relive your Burn!).

While BRC Census has existed since 2001, an exciting methodology update made in 2013 allows us to report about the entire population of BRC, not just the residents who chose to fill out our survey. As different as BRC may feel from year to year, from 2013 to now some things haven’t really changed. The average Burner is around 33-34 years old (a bit over 34 according to the 2018 preliminary results), for example, and most Burners identify as men (59%, +/- 2). But some things are a bit different this go-round. For example:

Fewer virgins! In previous years, nearly 2 in 5 Burners were virgins. In 2016, for example, 39% (+/- 1) were virgins, and that declined slightly in 2017 to 36% (+/- 1). That downward trend continued in 2018, where just shy of a third of BRC residents, or 32%, were first-timers (+/- 2).

More Nevadans! In 2017, about 6% (+/- 1) of U.S.-based BRC residents spent the off season in Nevada, which is consistent with previous years’ populations. In 2018, however, nearly 8% (+/- 1) of U.S.-based BRC residents called the Silver State home.

More generosity! Typically, between 9 and 10% of attendees report that their tickets were gifted to them, but in 2018, 13% (+/- 1) of attendees reported that their tickets were a gift. It’s like gifting is a core philosophy, or something…

Voting is… all over the place! In 2014, 72% (+/- 1) of eligible voters told the Census that they had voted in at least one of the last four federal elections in the U.S. That was the highest number of voters in any survey year, compared to a low of 60% (+/- 1) of 2016. In 2018, 65% (+/- 2) of randomly-sampled attendees reported voting in at least one recent election. But I have good news for the rest of the 9% (+/- 2) of eligible-but-non-voting folks—there’s an election coming up in just a few short weeks, if you’ve been looking for a way to participate and/or boost your civic engagement.

Most importantly, if you like this kind of information and you want to support methodological rigor and help us to generate reliable estimates of the Black Rock City population, fill out your damn Census survey! If you have only a few minutes to spare, fill out Section 1 and then be on your merry way. Hit that “continue later” button and we’ll even save your place just in case you can come back later. Want to relive your Burn for real? Section 2 asks about how you got there, what you did, and where all your money went. And section 3 asks about all the squishy stuff. I mean, who doesn’t love some good squish? I didn’t say you couldn’t have a nice whiskey while you’re at it.


Top photo by DV8

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.

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