Do tattoos affect employment or income?

By Felicia Roehm

Tattoos are a form of expression and creativity, but there used to be a stigma around them. Older generations believed getting tattoos could affect job opportunities; however, that has changed over time as younger generations are getting tattoos and still being hired. If you have tattoos, you might have heard a grandparent say, “You won’t get a job with those.” But the bias that tattoos are inappropriate is going away as they are now seen as a symbol of uniqueness and originality. 

The article “A Tattoo Won’t Hurt Your Job Prospects,” by Alison Beard in Harvard Business Law shares that today, there is no longer a negative correlation between the job force and tattoos. Michael T. French of the University of Miami conducted a survey with his colleagues of more than 2,000 people in the United States and the survey concluded, “that those with tattoos were no less likely to be employed than their uninked counterparts, and that average earnings were the same for both groups.” 

French explains that he thought the survey conclusions would be different based on previous studies. He believed he would observe employment difficulties and wage penalties because in previous studies, it was reported that employers would discriminate against tattooed candidates; however, his survey proved quite the opposite. French and his colleagues found no notable connection between body art and a lower income. 

It was actually proven through French’s research that those who have tattoos were more likely to be employed. French said, “We even saw two small positive correlations: men who had tattoos were 7% more likely to be employed than men who didn’t have them, and both men and women with tattoos worked more hours per week.” This survey shows that when entering the workforce, there is no need to hide tattoos.

 French also said the survey did not clarify if there is a divide between blue-collar and white-collar workers. He does note that tattoos could be seen as inappropriate in some white-collar jobs but not in blue-collar jobs. 

French also shares that even tattoos that are seen as offensive may not be a deal breaker for employers. “The respondents who told us they had offensive tattoos were just as likely to be employed as those without any tattoos,” said French.  Nonetheless, French’s research is not yet complete. 

He says his next steps are to use eye movement tracking technology to hopefully learn how people respond to seeing photos of visible or offensive tattoos. He would like to study and learn about more stigmatized groups and biases in the future. 

I believe that tattoos are beautiful and are a wonderful way to express yourself. There are so many tattoos that are funny, have sentimental value, and are extremely impressive. 

Tattoos are expensive, and I think that body art should be able to be seen at the office without fear of judgment or worry that the boss might see it. I hope that no one is turned away from a job because they want to show their individuality, and having body art should not affect anyone’s career or reputation.  

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