Some members of the US House of Representatives represent wealthy districts, and others represent poorer districts. Are Representatives from wealthy districts more likely to eventually become senators than their counterparts with poorer constituents?

I'm asking this because I suspect that there's an effect where wealthy district -> better fundraising for the representative -> more likely to win U.S. Senate primaries and general elections. Does such an effect exist?

  • 2
    I'm not sure whether there is a good correlation between 'wealthy district' and 'better fundraising' at least as long as you define wealthy be average income. Most fundraising comes from a small number of very rich individuals. So maybe you could get a correlation between 'better fundraising' and 'number of millionaires in district' or something like that but that is not the same as 'wealthy district'.
    – quarague
    Jul 15, 2021 at 11:31
  • wealthier district == more fundraising suggests that much of the fundraising comes from the district.
    – Barmar
    Jul 16, 2021 at 18:06

2 Answers 2


This is a difficult question to answer because there's not easily accessible data on representatives who attempted to become senators but failed. So what I did was test whether the median income for the former districts of senators who used to be representatives [1,2] (n=47) in the current Congress was higher than the average median income for the other districts [3,4].

The answer is no (one-sided t-test, p=0.87), the average median income for a non-Senator district was $68,629 but for a Senator district was $65,422.

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  1. Lists of Senators and Representatives: https://electionlab.mit.edu/data

  2. Identification of Senators who were Representatives: https://bioguide.congress.gov/

  3. Median income of 116th Congress districts: http://proximityone.com/cd_mhi.htm. Obviously this might not match onto the median income at their election to that district, but close enough.

  4. I remapped Dick Durbin and Bob Menendez according to what Wikipedia said about the history of their now-non-existent former districts.


To counter your intuition, an expensive House race costs about $2 million, whereas a Senate race is closer to $10 million. Maybe a candidate from a wealthier district has $1.5 million more in their campaign chest than one from a poor one. But that's not all that much compared to the $10 million they now need to raise.

Another thing is that not all of your money needs to be raised from your district. You may get cash from a corporation with lots of factories in your state, Emily's List, and so on. Wealth in your district doesn't directly correlate with campaign funds previously raised.

Finally, if you're in the House and running for the Senate then you start state-wide fund-raising far ahead of time. You have a slight edge if you have a good relationship with wealthy home-district donors. But no matter who you are you're mostly asking people in districts you've never represented, and asking statewide organizations (which any Representative, rich or poor district, has an equal shot at impressing). Putting that another way, suppose you're a Democrat from a wealthy city running for the Senate. A Republican House member from a poor district can fund-raise from conservative millionaires in your district. They'll probably give more since they hate you extra.

  • 1
    Not sure exactly what you're getting at with this comparison, but whatever it is, should probably also account for the fact that a US House member has to run for their office 3 times for every 1 US Senate term.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 15, 2021 at 13:36
  • 1
    @T.E.D. Isn't the question about someone currently in the House who is now running for the Senate? They're comparing fund-raising between the 2 types of races, in the sense of assuming it's the same either way, right? I suppose I could add a "here's what you assumed", but that seems a bit much. Jul 15, 2021 at 13:44
  • The question seems to assume that lots of representatives are competing for the Senate spot, and that each of them is likely to get much of their funding from their home district. But I don't think this is a common scenario.
    – Barmar
    Jul 15, 2021 at 14:13
  • @Barmar I think the Q would apply if a sitting Representative runs for an open seat against just anyone. It asks "would representing a poor/wealthy district be much of a factor?" (and I think my "answer" works in that case). Jul 15, 2021 at 17:39
  • @OwenReynolds Read the second paragraph of the question, that's where he expresses the assumption. That assumption would make more sense if it were a competition between districts.
    – Barmar
    Jul 15, 2021 at 18:18

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