Despite increased attention to ethnic differences in political behavior, there is little research on ethnic minorities as political donors and almost none outside the United States.

We draw on an administrative dataset of contributions to candidates, which we augment with donors’ ethnicity. Focusing on the 2015 Canadian election, we find ethnic minorities are generally less likely to donate than other Canadians, but South Asian Canadians donate at astonishingly high rates. Contrary to previous research, there are only modest differences in the size of donations across ethnic groups.

Linking donation data to candidate characteristics and census data reveals substantial co-ethnic affinity effects among Chinese and South Asian Canadians. Even in the absence of co-ethnic candidates, however, South Asians donate at a substantial rate. The proportion of donations to out-of-district and weaker candidates is also quite high, which could signal symbolic considerations are especially important to ethnic minority donors. The substantial heterogeneity between ethnic groups and the different effects on rates versus size of donations add important nuance to our knowledge of ethnicity and political behaviour.

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Randy Besco & Erin Tolley (2020) Ethnic group differences in donations to electoral candidates, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 48(5): 1072-1094. Journal page