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Estimated FY 2015 Spending
for Governments in the United States

In fiscal year 2015 the governments in the United States are expected to spend about 35 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Most of the money goes for health care, education, pensions, defense, and welfare programs. Health care spending is split mainly between federal and state governments; education spending occurs mainly at the local government level; pension spending is primarily the federal government’s Social Security program and the states’ government employee pension programs.

Government Spending: Federal, State, Local

Governments in the US will spend $6.2 trillion in 2015.

Table 2.01: Total Spending in 2015

In fiscal 2015 the federal government estimates spending will be $3.8 trillion, of which $0.6 trillion will be transferred to states and local governments. State spending for 2015 is "guesstimated" by at $1.5 trillion and local government spending is "guesstimated" by at $1.6 trillion.

Total spending at all levels of government in the United States is "guesstimated" by to be $6.2 trillion in 2015.

Government Spending: the Big Picture

The four big programs each cost about one trillion dollars a year.

Table 2.02: Total Spending Breakdown FY 2015

Where does all the money go? It is really quite simple. Governments at all levels, federal, state, and local, spend about $1.2 trillion a year on pensions, including Social Security and government employee pensions. Governments spend about $1.4 trillion a year on health care, principally Medicare and Medicaid. Governments spend about $0.9 trillion a year on education at all levels, principally at the local government level. The federal government spends about $0.8 trillion a year on defense, including the Departments of Defense, State, and Veterans Affairs. Governments spend $0.5 trillion on welfare programs other than Medicaid. All other spending amounts to $1.4 trillion, including interest on the national debt. The grand total of all the spending is $6.2 trillion.

Government Spending: the Details

About 60 percent of government spending comes from the federal government; About 25 percent is spent by state governments and 25 percent by local governments. About 10 percent of total spending is transferred from the federal government to state and local governments.

Table 2.03: Total Spending Details FY 2015

The federal government is budgeted to spend $3.8 trillion in FY 2015, of which about $0.6 trillion is transferred to state and local governments. Federal pension programs, including Social Security, will cost about $959 billion; federal health care programs, including Medicare and the federal share of Medicaid, will cost $1,018 billion; defense, including the Departments of Defense and State, and the Veterans Administration, will cost about $814 billion. Federal welfare costs will come in at $376 billion, and federal education programs will cost about $149 billion. Interest on the national debt is estimated at $229 billion.

State governments are "guesstimated" by to spend about $1.5 trillion in FY 2015. The biggest expenditure will be $555 billion for health care, mainly on Medicaid partially funded by the federal government. Next up are education at $285 billion and employee pensions at $237 billion. Welfare is expected to cost about $129 billion and transportation $110 billion.

Local governments are "guesstimated" by to spend about $1.6 trillion in FY 2015. The biggest expenditure is $549 billion for education. Next comes police and fire protection at $173 billion, transportation at $139 billion, and health care at $139 billion.

Pie Chart of Total US Government Spending

Although the four big government programs — pensions, health care, education, and defense — each cost about a trillion dollars a year they are distributed unequally between the levels of government.

Chart 2.04: Total Spending Details

Total government spending in the United States, including federal, state, and local governments, is expected to total $6.23 trillion in 2015. The total features five major functions. Of the total spending, health care takes a 22 percent share, pensions a 20 percent share, education a 15 percent share, and defense a 13 percent share. Welfare, the fifth largest function, takes a 7 percent share of spending. All other functions, including interest on the debt, take only 23 percent of spending.

Pie Chart of Federal Government Spending

Chart 2.05: Federal Spending Details

Federal spending is budgeted at $3.76 trillion for FY 2015, and includes four major functions. Health care, principally Medicare and Medicaid, takes a 27 percent share; pensions, principally Social Security, take a 26 percent share; defense, including foreign policy, veterans, and foreign aid, is 22 percent of spending; and welfare takes 10 percent of spending. All other spending, including interest on the national debt, takes 16 percent of federal spending.

Notice that education is not a major item in federal spending.

Pie Chart of State Government Spending


Chart 2.06: State Spending Details

State government spending, as "guesstimated" by, will total about $1.53 trillion in FY 2015, and features five major functions. Health care spending takes 36 percent of spending, education has a 19 percent share, state government pensions a 15 percent share, and welfare 8 percent. Transportation takes an 7 percent share of state spending. All other spending takes a 14 percent share of state government spending.

Pie Chart of Local Government Spending

Chart 2.07: Local Spending Details

Local government spending, as "guesstimated" by, will total about $1.58 trillion on FY 2015, and features two major functions. Biggest program by far is education, K-12 schools, taking a full 35 percent of local spending, followed by protection — police, fire and justice system — at 11 percent. Then comes health care at 9 percent and transportation at 9 percent. All other programs, at 37 percent of total, each take less than 7 percent of local government spending.

Spending 101 Courses

Spending | Federal Debt | Revenue | Defense | Welfare | Healthcare | Education
Debt History | Entitlements | Deficits | State Spending | State Taxes | State Debt

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Prepared by Christopher Chantrill.

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Spending Data Sources

Spending data is from official government sources.

Gross Domestic Product data comes from US Bureau of Economic Analysis and

Detailed table of spending data sources here.

Federal spending data begins in 1792.

State and local spending data begins in 1890.

State and local spending data for individual states begins in 1957.

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Next Data Update

> Federal Budget FY16

> data update schedule.

Data Source

Source: CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook .

> data sources for other years
> data update schedule.

US, State Population Update for 2015

On December 22, 2015 the US Census Bureau released its national and state population estimates for July 1, 2015.  On December 22, 2015 updated its US and state population data as follows:
  • We updated 2010-2015 population data for US and states using data from US Census Bureau Population Estimates: vintage 2015 in file NST-EST2015-01.xlsx.
  • We projected 2016 thru 2020 for US and states assuming population rate change for 2014-15.
  • We updated 2016 thru 2020 for US using data from US Census Bureau 2014 National Population Projections in file NP2014-T1.xls. uses population data in computing per capita spending and revenue data. You can see per capita spending data in a chart here, and in a table of spending here.

You can check the data update schedule here.

Spend links

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