How does life history affects the short-term elasticities of population growth rate? We decompose short-term elasticity as a sum of (i) the effect of the perturbation in rates on the unperturbed population structure and (ii) the effect of the original vital rates on the difference in structure between the original and the perturbed population. We provide exact analytical formulas for these components. In a population at its stable stage distribution (SSD), short-term elasticity is determined mainly by the SSD and reproductive value. In a non-stable population, short-term elasticity depends also on the projection of initial structure on the SSD, equal to population momentum. Non-stable stage structures matter most to elasticity if stages are missing that take time to fill in. We show how the demographic damping rate of the original population determines the rate at which short-term elasticity converges to its limiting values.