Formulae for the static electronic polarizability and hyperpolarizability are derived in terms of moments of the ground-state electron density matrix by applying the Unsöld approximation and a generalization of the Fermi-Amaldi approximation. The latter formula for the hyperpolarizability appears to be new. The formulae manifestly transform correctly under rotations, and they are observed to be essentially cumulant expressions. Consequently, they are additive over different regions. The properties of the formula are discussed in relation to others that have been proposed in order to clarify inconsistencies. The formulae are then tested against coupled-perturbed Hartree-Fock results for a set of 40 donor-π-acceptor systems. For the polarizability, the correlation is reasonable; therefore, electron density matrix moments from theory or experiment may be used to predict polarizabilities. By constrast, the results for the hyperpolarizabilities are poor, not even within one or two orders of magnitude. The formula for the two- and three-particle density matrices obtained as a side result in this work may be interesting for density functional theories. © 2018 CSIRO.