Like the stones on another famous playa, changes in the population of Black Rock City happen slowly and inevitably. Generally, differences in our estimates from year to year are indistinguishable from random noise in our sampling, but when we look back from where we were in 2013 we can see the trail of change in the dust. In the subsequent report you will find the changes in the population Black Rock City enumerated along with some new perspectives from questions introduced for the first time in the 2019 Black Rock City Census. This page highlights some of the notable trends and new results observed in the population of Black Rock City in 2019, but it is not a comprehensive list of all changes observed or all new questions introduced.
For the third straight year, we saw the percentage of Burning Man virgins in the population decline to its lowest level (25.9%, down from 31.7% in 2018) since the methodology change in 2013. This of course was accompanied with moderate increases from 2018 in more veteran participants with the largest increases in the 3-4 Burns (16.6%, up from 14.2%) and 5-7 Burns (12.5%, up from 10.1%) categories. The increase in the 3-7 year veteran burners seemed to correspond with the category of those for whom it has been 5-7 years since their first Burn (15.0%, up from 12.0%) and higher categories indicating that some of these people may have been returning to the playa. Some theories on these numbers include a drop in international burners (16.6%, down from 19.0%), possibily due to the current political climate in the USA, and veteran burners returning to pay their respects to Larry Harvey. Our data remains observational in nature, so we cannot know the reason from this report. Maybe you, the readers, can come up with your own theories based on the information in this report.
As Black Rock City aged for another year, so did its population. The median in participant age participant age increased by one year from 35, in 2018, to 36 in 2019. This continues a general trend of an aging populace we've seen since 2013 when the median age was 33. Year to year, most age groups remain relatively static; however in the last year we estimated a significant drop in our youngest residents. The number of participants in the 0-19 years old range more than halved from 0.8% in 2018 to 0.3% in 2019. This drop makes up a small part of a larger trend of a decreasing percentage of participants being under the age of 30. In 2013, we estimated 34.2% of the population to be under 30, and in 2019 our estimate has dropped to just 20.0%. The percentage of the population aged 60+ has also changed over the years, nearly doubling from 5.0% in 2013 to 9.0% in 2019.
While the trope of a largely white Burning Man is on the forefront of our collective consciousness these days, the ethnicity results in the 2019 Black Rock City Census tell a story of gradual progress. For the sixth straight year we have reported a decline in the percentage of participants selecting their ethnicity as "White/Caucasian (non-Hispanic)," from a high of 82.9% in 2013 to a low of 76.4% in 2018. While most ethnicity estimates have remained stable, since 2013 we have seen increases in the percentage of participants reporting Asian (from a low of 3.7% in 2013 to a high of 5.8% in 2018, and Hispanic/Latino (from a low of 3.0% in 2013 to a high of 5.4% in 2018) ethnicities, and the "other/multiple" category had the largest single year increase from 9.4% in 2018 to 10.3% in 2019.
The residents of Black Rock City also earned more income than ever. The percentage of participants reporting more than $100,000 of personal annual income increased from 21.2% in 2013 to 34.1% in 2019, and the percentage of those earning at least $300,000 has more than doubled from 2.3% to 5.2% over the same period of time. This increase co-occurred with a similar decrease in households making less than $25,000 (12.3% in 2015 to 8.9% in 2019). Unfortunately, it is not possible to tell how much of this shift is due to Burners making more as they age, or if attending Burning Man has become too financially burdensome for those making less. The median spending on Black Rock City participation has increased 27% since 2014 from $1300 to $1650 in 2019.
This year we also learned some new facts about you, the residents of Black Rock City, from brand new questions added to the Census in 2019. Music plays a large role in the experience of Burning Man; it is nearly impossible to escape it. This year we learned how participants interact with music and how that differs from the default world. We estimated 61.0% of Burners participated as an audience member by dancing in Black Rock City, compared to just 48.0% who danced in the audience in the default world in the past year. Most importantly though, we finally solved the age old question and learned that just 8.3% of burners are DJs and about 3/4 of the DJs perform at the event.
These highlights merely scratch the surface of all the interesting data we collected on the denizens of dust, the populace of Black Rock City. For a full review of all data collected we recommend reading the report page by page. The "Next" link at the bottom of each page leads to the next sequential page in the report. For information about specific data points beyond what is referenced on this page, use the navigation menu to explore additional datasets.