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Race and Representation in Campaign Finance



Racial inequality in voter turnout is well-documented, but we know less about racial inequality in campaign contributions. Using new data on the racial identities of over 27 million donors, we find an unrepresentative contributor class. Black and Latino shares of contributions are smaller than their shares of the population, electorate, and elected offices. However, we argue that the presence of ethnoracial minority candidates mobilizes coethnic donors. Results from regression discontinuity and difference-in-difference designs suggest that the presence of ethnoracial minority candidates increases the share of minority contributions in US House elections. We find a reduction in white contributions to black Democrats, and to black and Latino Republicans, but little difference in overall fundraising competitiveness. Although we cannot definitively rule out alternative mechanisms that covary with candidate ethnorace, the results suggest that the nomination of minority candidates can increase the ethnoracial representativeness of campaign finance without costs to fundraising.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.

Corresponding author

*Jacob M. Grumbach, Assistant Professor, University of Washington,
Alexander Sahn, PhD Candidate, University of California, Berkeley,


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We thank Adam Bonica, Devin Caughey, Paul Frymer, Zoli Hajnal, Andy Hall, Gabe Lenz, Amy Lerman, Eric Schickler, Laura Stoker, Michael Tesler, Ali Valenzuela, Rob Van Houweling, and participants in the 2018 Money and Politics Conference at UC Irvine and the 2018 Midwest Political Science Association Conference. Alexandra Jenney, Emily Mancia, and Guillermo Perez provided excellent research assistance. Jacob M. Grumbach acknowledges support from the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



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Race and Representation in Campaign Finance



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