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US Federal Debt as Percent of GDP

US Debt to GDP: That’s the size of US debt issued by the US Treasury as a percent of the US annual economic output.

At the end of FY 2016 the gross federal debt was 105.6% of GDP,
and the US federal debt is held by the public was 76.7% of GDP.

US Debt right now is 98.4% of GDP.

Also, see National Debt, State Debt, Local Debt,
Agency Debt, and Federal Deficit.

Recent US Debt to GDP

Chart D.11g: Gross US Federal Debt to GDP

Chart D.12g: US Debt held by Public

US Debt to GDP was 50% of GDP in the mid 1980s, but grew to 65% in the mid 1990s. In the late 1990s boom US Debt to GDP shrank to 54% of GDP by 2001. part of the monetary base).

In the 2000s US Debt to GDP increased modestly until the Crash of 2008. Then it vaulted up to over 100% GDP by 2013 financing bailouts and revenue shortfalls.

US debt held by the public (including debt held by the Federal Reserve System) was under 37% of GDP in 1985, but increased to over 47% GDP in the mid 1990s. But then it began to decline in the late 1990s, down to 31% GDP by 2001.

Note the larger share of debt held by the Federal Reserve System after the Crash of 2008.

US Federal Debt Since 1900

Chart D.13f: Federal Debt in 20th Century

Federal debt began the 20th century at less than 10 percent of GDP. It jerked above 30 percent as a result of World War I and then declined in the 1920s to 16.3 percent by 1929. Federal debt started to increase after the Crash of 1929, and rose above 40 percent in the depths of the Great Depression.

Federal debt exploded during World War II to over 120 percent of GDP, and then began a decline that bottomed out at 32 percent of GDP in 1974. Federal debt almost doubled in the 1980s, reaching 60 percent of GDP in 1990 and peaking at 66 percent of GDP in 1996, before declining to 56 percent in 2001. Federal debt started increasing again in the 2000s, reaching 70 percent of GDP in 2008. Then it exploded in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008, reaching 102 percent of GDP in 2011.

Federal debt has breached 100 percent of GDP twice since 1900: during World War II and in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008.

US Federal Debt since the Founding

Chart D.14f: Federal Debt since the Founding


The United States federal government began with a substantial debt, the cost of the Revolutionary War. Under Alexander Hamilton’s funding system the debt was paid off by 1840. Government debt has typically peaked after wars. It breached 30 percent of GDP after the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War I. It breached 100 percent of GDP in World War II. Government debt also breached 100 percent of GDP in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008.

Gross Federal Debt vs. Net Debt

Chart D.15f: Federal Debt Gross and Net


The US federal government differentiates between Gross Debt issued by the US Treasury and Net Debt held by the public. The numbers on Gross Debt are published by the US Treasury here.

Numbers on various categories of federal debt, including Gross Debt, debt held by federal government accounts, debt held by the public, and debt held by the Federal Reserve System, are published every year by the Office of Management and Budget in the Federal Budget in the Historical Tables as Table 7.1 — Federal Debt at the End of the Year. The table starts in 1940. You can find the latest Table 7.1 in here.

The chart above shows three categories of federal debt.

1. Monetized debt (blue), i.e., federal debt bought by the Federal Reserve System

2. Debt held by the federal government (red) e.g., as IOUs for Social Security

3. Other debt (green), i.e., debt in public hands, including foreign governments.

Top Debt Requests:

Find DEFICIT stats and history.

US BUDGET overview and pie chart.

Find NATIONAL DEBT today.

See FEDERAL BUDGET breakdown and estimated vs. actual.

See BAR CHARTS of debt, debt.

Check STATE debt: CA NY TX FL and compare.

See DEBT ANALYSIS briefing.

See DEBT HISTORY briefing.

Take a COURSE at Spending 101.

Make your own CUSTOM CHART.

Debt Data Sources

Debt data is from official government sources.

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

Detailed table of debt data sources here.

Federal debt data begins in 1792.

State and local debt data begins in 1890.

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

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Gross Federal Debt

Debt: $19,926,581,166,878.36

Data Sources for 2012_2021:

Sources for 2012:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
'Guesstimated' by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

Sources for 2021:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
'Guesstimated' by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

> data sources for other years
> data update schedule.

The Feds Borrow More Than The "Deficit"

People naturally assume that the annual Deficit is the total that the Federal government borrows each year. Actually this is not so. The Deficit is simply the difference between Federal Outlays and Federal Receipts. Usually, the Feds borrow a lot more than the official Deficit.

Like below, in $ billion:

YearGross
Debt
Debt
Increase
Federal
Deficit
Other
Borrow
2000562924-236259
20057905551318232
20101352916531294359
20111476412351300-64
20121605112871087200
201316719669680-11
2014177951075485590
201518120326438-113
2016195371417587830

We have provided the difference between the Debt increase and the Deficit for each year under "Other Borrowings" on the Spending Details page. To Recap:

Other Borrowings = (Increase in Federal Debt) - (Official Deficit)

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Christopher Chantrill.

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