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Has Burning Man Changed?

Is Burning Man A Bunch Of Rich Kids?

(a quick income analysis)

Part two in a series for Jaded Burners

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:

  • 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 Burning Man.
  • 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.

See you at the Man,

     - David Ljung Madison (a.k.a. "Mango Boy" of "Big Red Bus Camp / U.S.D.A.")

Part one: Has Burning Man Changed?

GetDave.com - Dave's Domain hub. 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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