When I first travelled out to Burning Man in 2004 the perception was that Burners were a group of modern-day hippies who travelled out into the desert, got naked, and smoked a lot of pot. I was okay with that. I like new experiences and adventures. Besides, I could go out into the desert, not get naked, and not smoke a lot of pot. What I quickly discovered, and have since advocated over and over however, is that Burning Man is much more than a hippie party in the desert; it is a hot-bed of creativity and a huge outdoor gallery of world-class art. Many of the costumes shown in this post are another aspect of that creativity.
Naturally I was curious about who my fellow Burners were. As it turns out, so was Burning Man. BMO (the Burning Man Organization) began carrying out an annual census or survey in 2002 of who participated. What I discovered, as I reviewed the results of the annual surveys, was that the everyday average Burner looked a lot like me.
Here are a few results from the 2014 census (the last date for which complete details are published) that I pulled out to share with you:
- 58.2% of the participants are male and 40.6% are female. (Some don’t respond.) Of these people, 64.9% had been more than once and 35.1% first-timers (virgins in Burner speak). Only 5.5% fit my category of having been to the event 11 times or more.
- People are older than you may think. 33.9% are 40 and older and 35.2% fit the category of 30-39, leaving only 30% for the under 30 crowd. My esteemed age (grin) puts me in the one percent category.
- Income-wise, the majority of Burners are well above the poverty line. 2.7% actually make over $350k a year. Over 50% make between $50k and $299k per year.
- 27% of Burners have advanced college degrees and 42.6% have bachelor degrees meaning that almost 70% of the people at Burning Man have graduated from college.
- Not too surprising, 87% of the participants are white, a fact for which BMO has come under some criticism. 84.8% of Burners come from the US and 15.1% from other countries. (And yes, I realize that leaves 0.1% hanging out there. My theory is that these people are aliens from outer space. Who would ever know?)
- The political view of Burners is somewhat left of center, especially on environmental and social issues. Only 4.8% registered as Republican. 34.6% registered Democrat and 34.3% Independent. Other parties got the rest. In the last election 72% voted. Of these, 75% voted Democratic.
- Two final results: 69.4% of Burners consider themselves heterosexual. 71.8 % do not belong to an organized religion.
So now, to put a face to these numbers, here are some photos of Burners from 2015. I owe a special thanks to my friend Don Green for many of these pictures. Don is much less shy than I am about going up and asking people if he can take their photo.