Tattoos don't matter in the workplace, UM finds
Having a tattoo has no impact on an individual’s employment or earnings, according to a new study from the University of Miami School of Business Administration. After accounting for personal traits (i.e., education, behavioral choices, human capital, lifestyle factors, etc.) the researchers found no significant difference in the way people with tattoos are treated in the workplace than those without tattoos. The study, in the February issue of the Southern Economic Journal, is the first to rigorously investigate whether having a tattoo is significantly associated with employment or earnings.
The researchers explain that differences in employment and earnings can occur for a number of reasons, including productivity differences, employee signaling (i.e., information potential employees may reveal about their likes and dislikes), and in some cases, discrimination by either the employer or customers on the basis of having a tattoo. But, when the researchers controlled for a large set of factors that have been shown to affect employment and earnings, the negative impact of having a tattoo becomes small and non-significant. This result may be partially explained by the fact that some industries, such as music and entertainment, professional sports, fashion, bars and nightclubs, styling, etc., actually welcome employees with tattoos.
“Qualitative research shows that tattoos are definitely becoming less taboo and somewhat accepted even in traditional workplaces, especially among younger employees,” said Michael T. French, professor of health sector management and policy at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, who conducted the study along with Philip K. Robins, professor of economics at the School. “If someone’s main concern about getting tattooed is whether body art will make them less employable or limit their earnings, this research suggests it should not be a major deterrent.”
The authors analyzed two large and nationally representative datasets from the United States and Australia--National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and the Australian Longitudinal Study of Health and Relationships (ASHR)—each with specific questions about tattoos, employment, and earnings. The total sample sizes were 9,691 in Add Health and 3,518 in ASHR. Using these data, they were able to estimate whether having one or more tattoos is significantly related to employment and earnings after controlling for demographics, human capital accumulation, lifestyle factors, and other variables that predict labor market outcomes and could relate to tattoo status.
“We believe it would be interesting in our future research to explore whether prominent tattoos (on the face or neck, for example), multiple tattoos, provocative images, or large tattoos, are significantly related to employment and/or earnings,” said Robins.
The full study is available upon request.
About the University of Miami School of Business Administration
The University of Miami School of Business is a leader in preparing individuals and organizations to excel in the complex, dynamic, and interconnected world of global business. One of 12 schools and colleges at the University of Miami, the School offers undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, and executive education programs. With its location in a major center for international business, the School is acclaimed for its global perspective, student and faculty diversity, and engagement with the business community. More information about the University of Miami School of Business can be found at www.bus.miami.edu.