Tattoos at Workplace: Study Shows that Long-held Stigmas Associated with Tattoos are Now Eroding

August 10, 2018


Tattoos are a common part of culture in many countries today. Nearly 20 percent of all American adults and 40 percent of millennials have tattoos, according to the Pew Research Center. Some people find tattoos as the easiest way to express their individuality. However, tattoos are also surrounded by social stigmas. Especially at workplaces, they are considered unprofessional and undesirable. Some past studies have also indicated that most hiring managers perceive job candidates with tattoos as less employable compared to candidates without tattoos.

But, things are changing now, and long-held stigmas associated with tattoos are eroding, according to a new research which found that workers with visible tattoo now don’t face any sort of discrimination in their employment, wages or earnings at workplace. In some cases, such tattooed candidates might even get an advantage compared to candidates without tattoos.


The new study was carried out by researchers from the University of Miami Business School and the University of Western Australia. In this research, the team surveyed more than 2,000 subjects from 50 states in the U.S. Nearly 50 percent of these survey respondents were from urban areas with a population over 1 million. The survey started in the summer of 2016.

The results of the study revealed that the perception of tattoos at workplaces has changed completely over time, and now workers having even a visible tattoo on their bodies don’t face any discrimination in their wages, annual earnings, or employment. The wages and earnings of the employees having tattoos were found to be indistinguishable from employees without tattoos. Surprisingly, the results suggested that discriminating against tattooed employees may even put hiring managers at a competitive disadvantage. In the hiring market, tattooed job aspirants were found to be just as likely, and in some cases even more likely, to get employment.

“The long-held stigmas associated with having tattoos, and particularly visible ones, may be eroding, especially among younger individuals who view body art as a natural and common form of personal expression,” says Michael French, the lead author of the study and professor of health economics in the Miami Business School’s Department of Health Sector Management and Policy.

“Given the increasing prevalence of tattoos in society—around 40 percent for young adults—hiring managers and supervisors who discriminate against tattooed workers will likely find themselves at a competitive disadvantage for the most qualified employees.”

The detailed findings of the study titled “Are tattoos associated with employment and wage discrimination? Analyzing the relationships between body art and labor market outcomes” are published in Human Relations, one of the Financial Times Top 50 business outlets.

Michael French’s coauthors on the study include Karoline Mortensen from the Miami Business School, and Andrew Timming from the University of Western Australia.

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