How Many People Have Tattoos In America?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 10, 2020
    Last Updated: November 10, 2020

Tattoos seem more popular than ever in America. In previous generations, tattoos were a rare sight. People either did not have them or kept them covered when going about their daily lives.

Are tattoos more popular now, or is it just that people feel more comfortable showing them in public?

Both things are right. Statistics show that tattoos are trendy in the United States now, but they are also more socially acceptable, especially among younger generations.


How Many Americans Have Tattoos? 

There are many different polls and studies on the subject of tattoos. According to a 2019 poll by Ipsos, 30% of all Americans, regardless of age, have at least one tattoo. In a similar survey in 2012, only 21% of Americans had a tattoo. 

Despite the increase, tattoos have been popular in some circles for a long time. Almost half of the 30% of tattooed Americans had their tattoo for more than a decade. Even though it has recently become apparent that tattooing is a trend, the popularity may have started earlier. 

Older generations may have been more subtle about their tattoos, and the trend could not be more visible because of social media. 

Tattoos by Age

Age also matters when it comes to tattoo popularity. 40% of those under the age of 35 had at least one tattoo, according to the survey. This data proves that tattoos are much more trendy among younger Americans. 

Though they don’t flaunt them as much, perhaps, the older generation also has tattoos. 36% of those between 35 and 54 had at least one piece of body art. However, over the age of 54, the numbers drop off. Only 16% of Americans over that age have a tattoo. 

What is the Reason for this Drop-Off? 

Tattoos used to be taboo. Those in the 55-and-over demographic came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, when sailors, prison inmates, gangsters, and motorcycle riders had tattoos, but they were rare in the general public. 

Norman Keith Collins, also known as Sailor Jerry

Tattoos, along with piercings and other body modifications, started to become more acceptable in the 1980s and 1990s, during the era of Generation X. 

During the 1990s and early 2000s, more and more people got tattoos. They started to appear on mainstream TV and in movies. The trend took off with social media. Those under 35 (in the highest tattoo demographic) grew up with social media, so it makes sense to attribute some of the tattoo trends to these platforms. 

This wider social acceptance has led to more people thinking that tattoos are not a barrier to career advancement, higher education, or relationships. 

Multiple Tattoos?

Another 2019 survey found that 35% of respondents had one tattoo. Interestingly, a large number of people had multiple tattoos. 19% of Americans had two to three tattoos, and 18% had four or five. This data shows that many people didn’t stop at one tattoo and continued to get them once they got started with the first one. 

16% of respondents had six to 10 tattoos. That is a significant number, but the numbers drop off at that. 9% of Americans have more than 10% tattoos, and only 3% have more than 20 tattoos. 

Many Americans have multiple tattoos, but very few have more than 20 tattoos. The data does show, however, that those who get multiple tattoos do not tend to stop after two or three. 

This survey also found something interesting: very few people cited employment as a reason for not getting a tattoo. In past generations, having visible tattoos was sometimes a barrier to career advancement. 

Other Statistics

Though it seems like more people have tattoos, the number is higher than you might think just from a quick visual survey when you are out in public. According to Pew Research, 72% of people with tattoos say that they are not always visible because they get hidden by clothing. 

It’s hard to say which types of tattoos are the most popular. A survey of Instagram found that rose tattoos are the most-featured type of body art. Other popular subjects are skulls, pop art pieces, birds, and text of phrases or sayings. Text of names, either a person’s own name or that of a loved one, were also common. 

Final Thoughts

Data suggests that the tattoo trend started earlier than most people think. However, it became more visible with the advent of social media. Younger people are more likely to get multiple tattoos and get them in places where they cannot get covered by clothing. 

Because of the number of people who have them, tattoos have become part of mainstream culture in the United States. They are socially acceptable and not seen as overtly counter-culture. 

The trend has led to an increase in the number of qualified tattoo artists, so those interested in getting inked can easily find a skilled professional to handle the job.