An oft-debated topic: tipping. Some Americans think that tipping at restaurants shouldn’t fall on the customer but rather, restaurants should pay their waitstaffs more. Others think that tips are vital for waiters and waitresses, most of whom don’t make the U.S. federal minimum wage. But who’s more likely to follow certain tipping habits? 

Tipping Sentiment

Recent studies by CivicScience surveyed over 2,200 adult respondents in the US on what they consider to be a “good tip” and what their tipping habits are when dining at restaurants.

The majority, 66%, of U.S. adults say that a tip between 15 and 20% is “good” while roughly 1 in 4 say that more than 20% is considered a good tip. 7% believe that a tip under 15% is “good” and only a small percent of the population says they don’t leave a tip. 

Roughly ¾ of U.S. adults say that they tip based on the service they receive at a restaurant. While this doesn’t tell us if they tip more or less than the recommended range, we do know that it means uncertainty for waitstaff across the country. It also shows that the vast majority of Americans don’t follow a standard protocol for tip percentages.

CivicScience found several correlations around American tipping culture – specifically by age, gender, income, and region. 


Gen Xers are generally split in their thoughts around what makes a good tip. They make up almost half of people who think less than 15% is considered a good tip. But, they also are the most likely to think that more than 20% is a good tip. Gen Xers are also the most inconsistent when it comes to tipping. 39% say tips vary based on service while 29% and 32% of Millennials and Baby Boomers can say the same.

The 15-20% camp is pretty even across all generations, however, Baby Boomers are the most likely to tip within this range at 37%.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Millennials are most likely to not tip at all. Over half of non-tippers are Millennials. Why are Millennials most likely to not tip? Some suggest that Millennials don’t tip because they think restaurants should increase their workers’ pay. 

CivicScience surveyed over 17,700 U.S. adults and found Millennials are more likely to think that tipping should become obsolete.


There’s even a gender divide when it comes to tipping. Women in the U.S. are much more likely to think that less than 15% is considered a good tip. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to think that leaving tips over 20% is good. While the data doesn’t show how people actually tip at restaurants, we can infer that men would consider tipping more when dining out. 


It might not come as a surprise, but income also plays a role when considering what constitutes a good tip. Of people who think a tip less than 15% is good, 48% make under $50,000 annually, before taxes. What is surprising is that of people who don’t tip at all, 60% make $100,000+ annually before taxes.


When looking at American tip sentiments by region, CivicScience found that people in the Northeast are more likely to think a tip of over 20% is good. People in the South are the least likely of all regions to think that a tip higher than 20% is considered good. Of people who don’t tip, the largest group is Midwesterners at 42%.

Just looking at people who do tip, Northeasterners also say they’re the most consistent when it comes to tipping; of people who tip the same percent all the time, 43% live in the Northeast. People in the West, however, are the least likely to not tip the same percent all of the time – they’re more likely to tip based on service.

All in all, Millennials are the least likely generation of U.S. adults to tip as are U.S. adults who are making over $100,000 in household income, before taxes. Men and Northeasterners are more likely to think that higher tip percentages are better. We may, however, begin to see tipping culture in the United States change if positive sentiment towards increasing pay for waiters and waitresses grows.