Inclusive language: Socioeconomic status

Socioeconomic status is a social factor that categorizes people based on their income, education, occupation, and perceived social class. When writing on topics that center around income, education, occupation, and social class, it is more inclusive to use the right language that will not alienate parts of your audience. Non-inclusive language can be harmful as it perpetuates stereotypes and overgeneralizes. So, if you want your online content to be inclusive, you should strive to only include what is relevant and be as specific as possible. In this article, we’ll give you tips on using inclusive language when discussing socioeconomic issues.

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Avoid non-inclusive language regarding income. See the examples below.

  • Non-inclusive: poverty-stricken, welfare reliant, and the poor.
  • Inclusive: people whose income is below the poverty threshold, people with low income, receiving welfare.

When writing about income, only include what is necessary and relevant for your content and be as specific as possible. For example, when referring to those with low or high income, explain whether that classification is based on federal poverty guidelines or other factors.


  • Non-inclusive: It is crucial to create policies that will help the poor.
  • Inclusive: It is crucial to create policies that will help individuals with low income


Avoid overgeneralizing statements about housing.  


  • Non-inclusive: The homeless are in need of assistance. 
  • Inclusive: People experiencing homelessness are in need of assistance. 
  • Non-inclusive: There is an increasing number of homeless people.
  • Inclusive: There is an increasing number of people who are homeless

Citizenry and Documentation 

Harmful and non-inclusive language is also found in relation to whether or not someone is a citizen of a country or whether they hold certain documentation. For instance, describing people as illegal is not only harmful but also inaccurate. Consider these examples.

  • Non-inclusive: the undocumented, illegal immigrants, illegal aliens.
  • Inclusive: people who are undocumented or undocumented people.


One primary occupation that tends to be the recipient of harmful language is sex work. These are the ways to address those workers.

  • Non-inclusive: prostitute (unless you or the person you are referring to uses that term themselves). That term implies a state of sexual dishonor, particularly for women.
  • Inclusive: sex worker.


Criminal record

It is also important to use inclusive language when talking about people who have been convicted or incarcerated. Use terms that are humanizing and don’t reduce people to their experiences with the criminal justice system. See these examples:

  • Non-inclusive: ex-con, felon, ex-offender.
  • Inclusive: people who have had /with felony convictions, people who have been incarcerated, formerly incarcerated person.

Read more

To learn more about how to write on these topics, read the APA guide linked below:

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