The Wealth Elasticity of Political Contributions by the Forbes 400

62 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2015 Last revised: 6 Feb 2018

See all articles by Adam Bonica

Adam Bonica

Stanford University

Howard Rosenthal

New York University (NYU)

Date Written: September 26, 2015


Inequality in campaign contributions in the American plutocracy has grown hand in hand with the growth in economic inequality. We report on the campaign contributions of the Forbes 400 wealthiest individuals from 1983 to 2012. We find that the wealth elasticity of individual contributions is around 1.0 without statistical controls but remains around 0.6 even with fixed effects for individuals and election cycles. The results suggest that the inequality in campaign contributions is largely driven by the increase in economic inequality. The sensitivity of contributions to individual wealth mainly benefits Republicans. In contrast, turnover in membership in the 400 has favored the Democrats.

Keywords: Political Contributions, Wealth

JEL Classification: D72, D31

Suggested Citation

Bonica, Adam and Rosenthal, Howard, The Wealth Elasticity of Political Contributions by the Forbes 400 (September 26, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Adam Bonica

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Howard Rosenthal (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) ( email )

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