If you're one of the 38 percent of millennials between 18 and 29 who have at least one tattoo, there's good news for you to bring to your next family reunion. While your mom might worry that a tattoo could affect your employment prospects, the reality is that, in most cases, it looks like having a tattoo won't affect your job opportunities at all — and could in fact help you get a job. That's the conclusion drawn by a new study published in Human Relations about the relationship between tattoos, earnings, and employment in the U.S. labor market. And it represents a sea change from the past, when tattoos were less popular and seen as a much bigger deal.
The scientists behind the study asked 2,064 people across all 50 U.S. states about their tattoos, earnings, wages, and employment, plus a host of other factors about their lifestyle and background. Only half of the people who answered the questionnaire came from cities, so scratch the idea that only big city people love tatts. And the results of this study indicate that getting something cool inked on your thigh isn't going to hurt your job prospects at all.
First off, the study found that tattoos remain popular, and more so for women than for men; 23 percent of men said they had at least one tattoo, while nearly 37 percent of women did. Secondly, and importantly, the researchers discovered that having a tattoo doesn't appear to be linked in any way to employment discrimination or lower wages — and it doesn't matter "whether one has a tattoo, number of tattoos, whether the tattoos are visible, and whether they are offensive," the researchers wrote.
In fact, tattoos seemed to be a small positive. People with tattoos worked a few more days and hours a year than people who didn't, according to the study, and having a tattoo actually seemed to make it a little easier for some men to be employed. These advantages might be partially explained, the researchers say, by the fact that "tattoos are much more common in blue-collar jobs than in white-collar ones." But it's still an overall boost, and one that wouldn't be possible if every employer was side-eyeing your tattoos.
The conclusion? "Not only are the wages and annual earnings of tattooed employees in the United States statistically indistinguishable from the wages and annual earnings of employees without tattoos, but tattooed individuals are also just as likely, and in some instances even more likely, to gain employment," the researchers wrote.
This is actually a massive shift in how we think about tattoos. It was only in 2006 that a study of human resources managers found that 80 percent of them felt negatively about tattoos visible on employees. If you graduated from college in the mid-2000s, your parents' worries about tattoos hurting your job prospects might have been justified. But this new study shows that tattoos have become far more acceptable in the workplace.
This obviously depends on how you work and what you're meant to be doing, but overall the study shows that Americans have become very accepting of tattoos. They're probably not going to stand in the way of getting the job you love — so go and get that beautiful back piece and rock on.