Is Burning Man A Bunch Of Rich Kids?
(a quick income analysis)
I hear Jaded Burners often discuss how Burning Man is a bit of a fantasy
world due to the money and energy dumped into it (possibly true) all thanks
to a bunch of upper-class attendees.
I wish the rest of the world would make up it's mind. Are we a bunch of
tech millionaires or are we a bunch of hippies? (Or better yet, come to
Burning Man and find out that we aren't much of either).
I was somewhat concerned about the possibility that Burning Man was
mostly fueled by millionaires, but let's take a look at
some very loose analysis, starting with info courtesy the BRC Census (2011):
The median is right between $25k and $50k. Compare this to the
average U.S. median household income of $51,413 (2011, according
to Sentier Research).
Also, "upper class" is generally considered to be the wealthiest 1-2%
of the population. According to one of the later graphs, this is
people making about $200k or more, of which is only 4% of BRC, not
a huge jump.
Now, not all burners are from the US, though the vast majority clearly
are. And the U.S. median household income is often the combination
of two incomes. So let's compare this with the US average income:
Apart from the $0-$25k, the graph is actually quite similar. One contributing
factor for the $0-25k when looking at individuals is that there is
the effect of the single-income partnered households (such as a married
couple with one wage earner). Clearly another contributing factor are
people living with less than $25k as their income. If we consider
poverty rates, in 2010 it was about 15.1 percent where poverty is
a household income of <$22k and <$11k for an individual. That doesn't
cover everyone who has low wages on the left bar, but 15.1 percent
doesn't cover much of the 50% of people in the $0-$25k. And interestingly
enough, notice how many burners are below $10k for their income (putting
them below "poverty level" - 15.3 percent!)
Considering non-wage earners increasing the left side of the graph
will make this an unfair comparison if most of Burners were single,
for example, compared to the U.S. population where about half of
adults are married. (Presuming that single people are more likely to
be the sole income earner in their household than married people).
Looking at the census again:
We can see that a massive 73.8% of Burners consider themselves to
be single (including separated, divorced, widowed). It would make
some sense, then, to compare Burners with household income:
Where we can see that the U.S. household income is actually higher
in general than Burner income.
It seems clear that while there are some factors that still need to
be considered (see below), the vast majority of Burners are not simply
comprised of the upper-class of society.
Factors that need to be considered:
See you at the Man,
- David Ljung Madison (a.k.a. "Mango Boy" of "Big Red Bus Camp / U.S.D.A.")
- To a first order, it might be reasonable to compare single Burner
incomes with U.S. household incomes, but this ignores the double-income
relationships that raise the household income graph, as well as the
Burners that may be in multi-income households.
- Clearly there is a mass of people under $25k who are in poverty
as opposed to being a non-wage earner in a multi-income household, and
these people may not be fully represented at Burning Man, though it's
difficult to tell without looking at combined household incomes at
- The tail end of income on the high-end is more represented
at Burning Man - and the effects of these super-wage earners is
probably significant to the things that can happen at BRC. For
example, millionaires weigh in at .4% at BRC, or around 200 people.
In the U.S., millionaires are more like .05%, which would only be
about 20 people at Black Rock City. Same with >$200k, which is
4% of BRC and 1.3% of the US, a difference of about 2000 people
instead of 650 people for every 50,000.
Part one: Has Burning Man Changed?
Disclaimer: Do not try this at home.
Do not try this at someone else's home.
Do not try this anywhere. It's too stupid.
Ultra Stunt Danger Academy, 2010
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