I'm writing an article for a political website about the major traits that make an individual what he or she is (in terms of wealth, human rights, oppression or lack thereof, etc.). They include inherited traits (e.g. race, gender and age) and traits that may be acquired or modified later (e.g. religion, income class, etc.).

I just wondered if anyone knows of a collective term for such traits. I coined the term lifetags, but I wondered if there's an appropriate word that already exists.

Such terms are often associated with censuses, surveys and sociological/demographic studies, but I can't think of a word that describes them. Feel free to coin a new term; I want to enrich my vocabulary. ;)

  • Why not dig through the US Census Bureau web site and see if you can't find the terms they use? – Hot Licks Mar 1 '15 at 4:01
  • Cohorts? I think that's what I called the in a stats course a long time ago. – James McLeod Mar 1 '15 at 4:08
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    @ Hot Licks: Good tip, but I haven't stumbled over anything useful there. They generally use generic terms like "quick facts," "stats," "data," etc. quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/48000.html – David Blomstrom Mar 1 '15 at 4:08
  • @HotLicks Easier said lol. Also, "see if you can't find" is a Freudian slip? – Kris Mar 1 '15 at 6:26

Traits of the kind that you mention can be classed as demographic characteristics or demographic features.

According to the definitions supplied by Oxforddictionaries.com, demography has two denotations:

1 The study of statistics such as births, deaths, income, or the incidence of disease, which illustrate the changing structure of human populations.

1.1 The composition of a particular human population.

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  • Definitions can sometimes be serious pitfalls. Check usage also, at all times. – Kris Mar 1 '15 at 6:27
  • @Kris - Thanks for those uniquely insightful comments, and also for the downvote. Both were immensely helpful. – Erik Kowal Mar 1 '15 at 6:33
  • Or, more usually, those data items are referred to collectively as 'demographics'. – Mitch Aug 18 '16 at 17:52

Discriminant is one word that I can think of. Though it has a mathematical meaning, there is also a meaning in the sense of language.

http://www.yourdictionary.com/discriminant - which cites 'The definition of a discriminant is some distinguishing characteristic or feature that allows someone or something to be separated from others.'

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  • Too broad for the purpose. – Kris Mar 1 '15 at 6:29
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    For whatever it's worth, I'm probably going to use "lifetags" as sort of a synonym for demographic variables in my article. The latter is the proper term, but I want to emphasize the fact that some of these demographic traits virtually define our entire life. In fact, physical appearance is a very important "lifetag" that isn't considered a demographic characteristic - and it can play a role in politics. Of course, I'm also going to use the term "demographic characteristics," because it is more accurate and familiar. – David Blomstrom Mar 2 '15 at 2:28
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    Raghuraman's suggestion, "discriminant," is interesting because people are indeed discriminated against based on these demographic variables. – David Blomstrom Mar 2 '15 at 2:28

Intersectionality-the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage

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