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What is the Total National Debt?

National Debt: Strictly speaking, the US national debt is the total of federal, state, and local debt. But people often talk about the debt of the federal government as the “national debt.”

At the end of FY 2017 the US national debt was “guesstimated” to be $23.27 trillion, including federal $20.21 trillion, state $1.18 trillion, and local $1.89 trillion.

Also, see Federal Debt, State Debt, and Local Debt.

  Debts and Deficits   *** Includes FY19 Budget numbers. ***

DeficitDeficit
Pct GDP
Recent
Debt
State
Debt
Debt
History
Federal
Budget
Click to view

 

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Recent US Total National Debt

Chart D.11t: Recent US National Debt

Chart D.12t: Recent US National Debt as Pct GDP

Public Debt in the United States is principally the debt of the federal government.

In 2005 federal debt was about 60 percent of GDP, state government debt was about 6 percent of GDP and local government debt was about 10 percent of GDP.

But in the last ten years the federal debt has almost doubled to 103 percent GDP, while state government debt has stayed at a little over 6 percent GDP and local government debt has increased a little to 10.6 percent GDP.

  Debts and Deficits   *** Includes FY19 Budget numbers. ***

DeficitDeficit
Pct GDP
Recent
Debt
State
Debt
Debt
History
Federal
Budget
Click to view

US Total Debt Since 1900

Chart D.13t: Total National Debt in 20th Century

Government debt began the 20th century at less than 20 percent of GDP. It jerked above 45 percent as a result of World War I and above 70 percent in the depths of the Great Depression. Debt has breached 100 percent of GDP twice since 1900: during World War II and in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008.

Federal, State, Local Debt in 20th Century

Chart D.14t: Total National Debt by Government Level


At the beginning of the 20th century debt was equally divided between federal and state and local debt, totaling less than 20 percent of GDP. After World War I, the total debt surged to 45% of GDP. But by the mid 1920s debt had declined to below 35 percent of GDP. Then came the Great Depression, boosting total public debt to 70 percent of GDP. World War II boosted federal debt to almost 122 percent of GDP in 1946, with state and local debt adding another 7 percent. For the next 35 years successive governments brought the debt below 50 percent of GDP, but President Reagan increased the federal debt up over 50 perent of GDP, and total debt towards 70 perent to win the Cold War. President Bush increased the debt to fight a war on terror and bail out the banks in the crisis of 2008.

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 1820.

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

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Gross Federal Debt

Debt: $21,035,490,499,062.02

Data Sources for 2013_2023:

Sources for 2013:

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 2023:

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.

State Finances for FY2016

On May 11, 2017 the US Census Bureau released data on state finances for FY 2015 here, including spending and revenue for each individual state and for all states combined.

On April 10, 2018 we updated state and local spending and revenue data for FY2016 through FY2023 as follows:
  1. We replaced "guesstimatedstate spending and revenue data for FY2016 using the new FY2016 data from the Census Bureau.
  2. We replaced "guesstimatedlocal spending and revenue data for FY 2016 with estimates for each spending and revenue category using the trends in state finances between FY 2015 and FY 2016.
  3. We replaced "guesstimatedstate revenue data for FY 2017 with data from the Census Bureau's quarterly state tax summary here.
  4. We replaced "guesstimatedlocal revenue data for FY 2016 with estimates for each category using trends for each category of state revenue between FY 2015 and FY 2016.
  5. We replaced "guesstimated" state and local spending and revenue for FY 2017 thru FY2023 with new guesstimates based on the latest Census Bureau data for FY 2016 state finances and FY 2017 quarterly tax data.

State Finances for FY2016
Estimate vs. Actual

$ billionGuesstimateActual
Spending$1,708$1,707
Revenue$1,604$1,499

We expect the Census Bureau to release local spending and revenue data for FY 2016 not earlier than Summer 2018.

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