Employees with tattoos are more 'impulsive and hasty', economists say

Experts are split on whether tattoos affect your employability. Image: Getty

People with visible tattoos are more likely to make reckless decisions, a team of Canadian economists has found in a new study.

The study from McMaster University had a goal of finding why tattoos have risen in popularity, with co-author and behavioural economist Bradley Ruffle telling The Times that the question had long puzzled him.

“Tattoos are about making some kind of statement. But why not just dye your hair or get a personalized T-shirt you can remove?” he said.

The study of more than 1,000 people found that when participants were presented with a game designed to test long-term planning ability, those with tattoos were more likely to make decisions quickly and impulsively.

“Almost nothing mitigates these results, neither the motive for the tattoo, the time contemplated before getting tattooed nor the time elapsed since the last tattoo,” the authors argue.

“Even the expressed intention to get a(nother) tattoo predicts increased short-sightedness and helps establish the direction of causality between tattoos and short-sightedness.”

According to research firm, McCrindle, around one in five Australians have at least one tattoo, with more women than men investing in ink.

“Many life-markers have disappeared from Australia’s lives – from christenings, first Communions and marriages, to first pay cheques and moving out of home,” researcher Mark McCrindle said.

“This has created a yearning to symbolise the chapters of life with new markers and tattoos are part of the new symbolism. In record numbers, Australians are marking milestones, commitments or life-chapters not just with bracelet charms or certificates, but tattoos.

“In a generation, tattoos have been transformed from a sign of rebellion and non-conformity, to symbols of personal meaning and life-change.”

However, that same study found that more than one in four Australians have regrets about at least one tattoo.

More Australians have tattoos than ever. Image: Getty

Does having a tattoo affect getting a job?

While the McMaster University study warns against the perceptions tattoos may give off, many others disagree.

A 2018 study from the University of Miami found people with tattoos were no less likely to be employed than people without tattoos.

And as co-author Michael French told the Harvard Business Review, even he was surprised by the results.

“My coauthors… and I thought we might see a wage penalty or employment difficulties, because hiring managers have said in previous studies that they’d discriminate against tattooed candidates,” he said.

“But in this analysis, after we controlled for factors that could affect job prospects—such as alcohol use and whether people had been in jail—we found no significant correlation between body art and employment or earnings.”

That was regardless of the size, number, offensive nature or visibility of the ink.

“Men who had tattoos were 7 per cent more likely to be employed than men who didn’t have them, and both men and women with tattoos worked more hours per week.”

However, another study from 2018 found that while tattoos are surging in popularity, they can place jobseekers at a disadvantage.

“We found that applicants with extreme tattoos were less likely to be hired and applicants with mild or severe tattoos were offered lower starting salaries than those without body art,” authors Chris Henle, Ted Shore and Alyssa Marshall wrote.

Additionally, those with “extreme tattoos” were considered less competent and committed.

But the study also found that some of this comes down to the hiring manager, finding that some managers with less supervisory experience weren’t as likely to hire those with the extreme ink.

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