Unveiling the Burning Man Experience: Insights from the Black Rock City Census 2022 Report

“As we get ready to head back into the dust for Black Rock City 2023, let’s pause to reflect on what — and more importantly, who — was Black Rock City 2022. Behind our vibrant dust-covered community lies a wealth of valuable data that provides insight into its participants, their experiences, and the ethos of the event we all co-create.” 

Andi Morency, Ph.D., BRC Census Manager

The Black Rock City Census is a volunteer-led, sanctioned research project aimed at collecting and analyzing data that BRC participants provide to us through voluntary participation — we conduct a random sample of Burners entering the event, then collect online survey responses after the Burn. This data serves as an essential annual resource for understanding the demographics, behaviors, and experiences of Burners. This report is a treasure trove of information, revealing not just statistics but also the spirit and ethos of all playa citizens. 

Members of the Census team atop the DataBeast in BRC, 2022 (Photo provided by Andi Morency)

During the 2022 event and in a Journal post from October 2022, we published some preliminary numbers highlighting some of the demographic info that was collected through our random sample. Now, we’re excited to share the full report from last year’s event. 

Demographics: Who Are the Burners?

The BRC Census report provides a comprehensive demographic breakdown Black Rock City’s population. It reveals interesting insights into the age distribution, gender representation, educational background, profession, and geographic origins of the participants. This diversity fosters a rich and inclusive cultural experience that transcends most societal boundaries. 


The median age of participants coming to Black Rock City has been steadily increasing by just under one year every year since we began trend analysis in 2013. The median age of a citizen of Black Rock City 2022 was 37 years old, compared to 32 in 2013.

Current Gender

More males attend Burning Man than females or other gender identities annually. There has been a slight decrease in male participants and increase in female and other gender identities since 2013. In 2013, 58.3% (57.3%, 59.2%) of participants identified their gender as male compared to 54.3% (53.1, 55.5%) in 2022. 

Ethnoracial Identity

The number of Burners identifying as a Person of Color has grown slightly from 7.3% (6.8%, 7.8%) in 2013 to 13.3 % (12.5%,14.2%) in 2022. Much of this increase can be attributed to the decrease in participants who responded “Sometimes.” 80.5% (79.5%, 81.5%) of respondents reported their ethnoracial background as White (non-hispanic). The next largest ethnoracial group was Hispanic/Latino at a reported 9.6% (8.9%, 10.4%), followed by Asian, 8.0% (7.4%, 8.8%), Middle Eastern or North African 3.0% (2.6%, 3.5%), Black (non-Hispanic) 2.2% (1.9%, 2.6%). The least represented population in Black Rock City 2022 was Native American 1.4% (1.2%, 1.7%). 3.3% (2.9%, 3.8%) identified as Other. 

Where Are Burners From?

Most citizens of Black Rock City travel to the Nevada desert from California 38.1% (36.9%, 39.2%). The next largest group comes from Nevada at 4.3 % (3.9, 4.8%). Other states in the U.S. make up 41.5% (40.3, 42.7%) of the population. Canadians make up 4.4% (4.0%, 5.0%) of the population, and 11.7% (10.9, 12.5) travel to Black Rock City from other countries outside of the U.S. and Canada. 

First-Year Participants/Virgins

The percent of participants engaging with Black Rock City for the first time, known as virgins, had been steadily decreasing from 2016 — where nearly 40% of citizens in Black Rock City were there for the first time — to approximately 26% in 2019. 2022 saw a slight uptick, with about 28% of participants being identified as virgins. 

Participation and Engagement: Embracing the 10 Principles

The 10 Principles sit at the core of Burning Man culture. The data report sheds light on how participants embrace and embody Radical Inclusion, Radical Self-reliance, Communal Effort, Gifting, and more during the event. It showcases the incredible spirit of collaboration, artistry, and interactivity that pervades Black Rock City. Participants report annually that the 10 Principles are essential to creating an authentic Burning Man experience.

How important do you feel the 10 Principles are?

The experience of participating in Black Rock City inspires many Burners to volunteer beyond Black Rock City. On average, about 50% of participants reported being inspired to volunteer, donate, or get involved in other ways after Black Rock City. 

Impact and Sustainability: Leave No Trace!

An essential aspect of the Burning Man ethos is the commitment to Leaving No Trace, minimizing the environmental impact. In 2019, Burning Man Project made a commitment to be net-carbon negative by 2030. To meet this ambitious goal, the organization has made shifts in practice, working towards greater sustainability, and has asked the Burning Man community to join these efforts. Participants reported this to be essential, and noticed new sustainability projects while in Black Rock City 2022. Learn more about the Burning Man Project Environmental Sustainability Roadmap here

How important to you is it that the Burning Man Project visibly engages in best practices in environmental sustainability?

Participants reported noting more solar power in Black Rock City in 2022. Other initiatives of note were camp efforts to be more sustainable and that the theme reflected in more art projects. 

Radical Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (R.I.D.E.)

Another important initiative of Burning Man Project is Radical Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (R.I.D.E). This cross-departmental Stewardship Group is responsible for prioritizing, managing, and advocating for R.I.D.E work across Burning Man Project staff, Black Rock City, and Burner communities in the US and internationally. 

How did you see R.I.D.E. in action while in BRC?

The call for Radical Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity at Burning Man is not the work of the R.I.D.E Stewardship Group alone. All members of the Burning Man community are called to make changes to create a more diverse and inclusive Black Rock City. Participants identified ways they personally worked to create a more diverse and welcoming Black Rock City in 2022. 

How did you personally work to create a more diverse and welcoming Black Rock City?

Nurturing the Burner Community

The Black Rock City Census data report goes beyond mere statistics; it offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of Black Rock City. It reveals a community that embodies the Principles of Radical Self-expression, Radical Inclusion, and Participation. From the diverse demographics to the profound emotional experiences, the report paints a vivid picture of this transformative event.

We encourage you to delve deeper into the data. We hope you are reminded of the power of communal living and the potential of Burning Man and Black Rock City to inspire positive change in society. BRC Census aims to showcase the capacity of humans to come together, celebrate art, embrace differences, and co-create a world where the 10 Principles are not just confined to the desert but spread far and wide. Whether we will see you in Black Rock City 2023 soon or you are simply curious about the magic of Burning Man, the full 2022 Census Report will undoubtedly leave you captivated and inspired by the boundless possibilities of human connection and self-expression. 

Wondering about self-selection bias? Check out our methods section here

Thank you to the 200 volunteers who helped with data collection in Black Rock City 2022! A huge shout out goes to Aaron Shev (aka Murrs), the Black Rock City Census Statistician and Lead Analyst for all of his dedication and hard work to produce the 2022 Black Rock City Census Report.

Come to Your Census!

If you will be in Black Rock City 2023, we want your data! You may be lucky enough to be selected to complete the random sample at your point of entry, and all participants can gift us their data starting Tuesday after the Man burns (9/5/2023) by going to census.burningman.org! The survey will remain open until early October. 

Cover image of the 2022 Census team by Black Rock Yearbook

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.

8 Comments on “Unveiling the Burning Man Experience: Insights from the Black Rock City Census 2022 Report

  • Irving forbush says:

    An organization this big should conduct an actual engagement survey once in a while. The census is nice, but really doesn’t answer many questions. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

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  • Delighted says:

    Thank you for your work! I always enjoy reading the census reports. As someone who would like to see Black Rock City continue indefinitely it is a bit discouraging that the number of virgins is declining as the median age increases. Then again, nothing is forever!

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  • broccoli says:

    One big bias in the census is that people doing it are those eager to participate and help BRC grow, which might now be everyone. Ideas to tackle this?

    There could, for instance, be a mini-census when creating your burner profile or buying your ticket that asks some of the questions, to later compare it with those of the census

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    • Mew says:

      They address how they avoid this bias in the methodology section.

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    • ANUBIS says:

      Yes I agree with you broccoli that would be very effective towards the community I have personally never been but it would be great to become a part of a growing community,I believe a mini survey would make a big difference when making a burners profile GREAT IDEA!!!

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  • Megan Kelley says:

    So cool. As a sociologist, I have always been fascinated by the demographics of Burning Man. I will make sure to stop by their camp this year!

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