Last Updated: February 14, 2024
Richest PoliticiansRepublicans
Net Worth:
$30 Million
Mar 26, 1953 (71 years old)
Da'an District, Taipei, Taiwan
Businesswoman, politician
💰 Compare Elaine Chao's Net Worth

What is Elaine Chao's Net Worth?

Elaine Chao is a Taiwanese-American who has a net worth of $30 million. She is a Republican politician and is married to Senator Mitch McConnell. They have been married since 1993. As we detail in the next section below, Elaine comes from a very wealthy family.

Elaine Chao served as the Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission from April 1988 to April 1989. She served as the Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission from April 1988 to April 1989. Elaine Chao was the United States Deputy Secretary of Transportation from April 1989 to October 1991. She served as the 12th Director of the Peace Corps from October 1991 to November 1992. Chao was the 24th United States Secretary of Labor from January 2001 to January 2009. In 2017 she became the 18th United States Secretary of Transportation.

Outside of the government, Chao has presided over the United Way of America and sat on the boards of directors of such companies as Hyliion and ChargePoint.

Family Wealth

Elaine's father James S. C. Chao is an extremely successful Chinese-American shipping magnate. James founded the Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping company which operates a fleet of 33 ships. Foremost is worth an estimated $1.2 billion, before debt. After debt and an investments from China's Export-Import Bank and Taiwan's First Commercial Bank, the Chao family's stake in Foremost is worth an estimated $600 million. Elaine's younger sister Angela Chao served CEO of Foremost until her sudden death in a car crash in February 2024.

Prior to 2007, Mitch and Elaine's combined net worth was $3 million. In 2007, after receiving an inheritance, estimated at $5 – $25 million, following Elaine's mother's death, Mitch and Elaine's combined net worth jumped to $12.7 million. Today their disclosed net worth could be as high as $35 million.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Early Life and Education

Elaine Chao was born on March 26, 1953 in Taipei, Taiwan as the eldest of six daughters of Ruth, a historian, and James, a merchant mariner who went on to found the shipping company Foremost Maritime Corporation in New York City. Her sisters are Jeannette, May, Christine, Grace, and Angela. Chao spent the early part of her education at Tsai Hsing Elementary School in Taiwan. In 1961, she immigrated to New York with her mother and two of her sisters, joining their father who had arrived there three years prior. In New York, Chao continued her education at Syosset High School. She went on to attend Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, from which she earned her BA in economics. Chao subsequently obtained her MBA from Harvard Business School.

Career Beginnings

Before entering public service, Chao served as a vice president for syndications at Bank of America Capital Markets Group in San Francisco, California. She also worked as an international banker at Citicorp in New York. In 1986, Chao joined the government when she became deputy administrator of the Maritime Administration in the Department of Transportation under Ronald Reagan. From 1988 to 1989, she served as chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission. After that, Chao was appointed as deputy secretary of transportation, a position she held from 1989 to 1991. She followed that appointment by serving as the director of the Peace Corps from 1991 to 1992. In that role, Chao expanded the Corps' presence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

United Way of America

After serving in George H. W. Bush's administration, Chao was president of the United Way of America from 1993 to 1996. During her tenure, she was credited with restoring credibility and public trust to the organization following the financial scandal of former president William Aramony.

US Secretary of Labor

Chao returned to government in 2001 to become the US secretary of labor under George W. Bush. She served in that position until 2009, making her the only cabinet member in the W. administration to serve for the entirety of his eight years in office. During her tenure, Chao oversaw the Department of Labor's grant disbursements to assist in the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. However, under her leadership, the Department was criticized for neglecting its regulatory function, including inadequately investigating the complaints of low-wage employees.

Private Sector, 2009-2017

Following her time in the W. administration, Chao returned to the private sector and resumed her previous role at a conservative think tank. She also contributed to Fox News and other media outlets, and became director of a number of boards, including those of Wells Fargo, Dole Food Company, and the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School.

US Secretary of Transportation

In 2017, Chao returned to government as US secretary of transportation under Donald Trump. She served in that role until January 11, 2021, when she officially resigned in response to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. Chao was the first cabinet officer to resign due to the riots instigated by Trump.


As secretary of transportation, Chao generated controversy for allegedly enriching her family's shipping business through her office. Federal disclosures revealed that Chao's father had given her and her husband Mitch McConnell a gift valued between $5 million and $25 million. The family's company, the Foremost Group, has extensive ties to the Chinese state that were seen as suspect and a conflict of interest. In early 2021, the Inspector General released a report citing Chao for numerous ethics violations, including promoting her father's biography and using department resources for personal errands.

Private Sector, 2021-Present

In August of 2021, Chao was elected to the board of directors of the supermarket chain Kroger. She later began serving on the boards of directors of Hyliion, an electric truck manufacturer based in Austin, Texas, and ChargePoint, an electric vehicle infrastructure company based in Campbell, California.

Personal Life

Chao married US Senator from Kentucky Mitch McConnell in 1993. She has been a prominent figure on his campaign trails, and her extended family has donated over a million dollars to his reelection campaigns.

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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