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What is the Deficit?

Budget Deficit: The amount by which the government's total budget outlays exceeds its total receipts for a fiscal year. US Senate Budget Committee

Or, approximately, the federal deficit is the amount by which the federal debt increases in a single year. See Federal Debt.

 

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Recent Federal Budget Deficits

Fiscal Year Federal Outlays Federal Receipts Budget Deficit
2013$3.45 trillion$2.78 trillion$0.68 trillion
2014$3.50 trillion$3.02 trillion$0.48 trillion
2015$3.90 trillion$3.34 trillion$0.56 trillion
2016$4.10 trillion$3.57 trillion$0.53 trillion

Although the federal budget deficit is the amount each year by which federal outlays in the federal budget exceed federal receipts, the gross federal debt increases each year by substantially more than the amount of the deficit each year. That is because a substantial amount of federal borrowing is not counted in the budget. See here.

Deficit Charts   also: Spending Charts  Revenue Charts  Debt Charts  

 
Federal

Recent US Federal Deficits

in billions


Click chart for briefing on Federal Deficit.
For numbers and more click here.

in Percent GDP


Click chart for briefing on Federal Deficit.
For numbers and more click here.

The two charts show above show recent and budgeted deficits for the US federal government. On the left is a chart of the deficit in current dollars. On the right is a chart of the deficit as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

US Federal Deficits in the 20th Century


Click chart for briefing on Federal Deficit.
For numbers from 1900-2016 click here.


The two major peaks of the federal deficit in the 20th century occurred during World War I and World War II. Deficits increased steadily from the 1960s through the early 1990s, and then declined rapidly for the remainder of the 1990s. The federal deficit went over 10 percent of GDP in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008.

US Federal Deficits since the Founding


Click chart for briefing on Federal Deficit.
For numbers from 1792-2016 click here.

The United States government did not always run a deficit. In the 19th century the federal government typically only ran deficits during wartime or during financial crises. The government ran a deficit of 2 percent of GDP at the end of the war of 1812, and through the decade after the Panic of 1837 and culminating in the US - Mexican War of 1846-48. It ran a deficit of over 7 percent of GDP in the Civil War; and ran a deficit in the depressed 1890s.
In the 20th century the US ran a defict during World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and in almost all years since 1960, during peace and war.


There’s much, much more:

  • Create CHARTS of government spending history here.
  • Look at TABLES of spending breakdown year-by-year for federal, state, and local here.
  • DOWNLOAD data for a single year here.
  • Take a TOUR of the website here.


What is the spending data; where is it from?

  • Federal spending data begins in 1792.
  • State and local spending data begins in 1902.
  • Spending data is from official government sources.
    Federal data since 1962 comes from the president’s budget.
    All other spending data comes from the US Census Bureau.
  • Gross Domestic Product data comes from measuringworth.com.

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Next Data Update

> US, State Pop FY14

> data update schedule.

Data Sources for 2010_2019:

Sources for 2010:

GDP, GO: See 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 2019:

GDP, GO: See 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 and Local Finances Update for FY 2012

On December 11, 2014 usgovernmentspending.com updated the state and local spending and revenue for FY 2012 using the newly released Census Bureau State and Local Government Finances for FY 2012.  This includes state and local spending for the United States as a whole and individual states and the District of Columbia.

State and local spending and revenue for FY2012 are now actual historical spending as reported by the Census Bureau.  Previously state spending and revenue for FY2012 was actual and local spending and revenue was estimated.  The following table shows the difference between estimated and actual spending and revenue for FY2012:

FY 2012Estimated
$ billion
Actual
$ billion
Spending$1,657$1,647
Revenue$1,038$1,075

We have updated the "guesstimated" state and local finances for FY2013-19.

Also updated were state and local finances for 2009, 2010, and 2011 using newly released Census Bureau revised data.

Spend links

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usgovernmentspending.com was designed and executed by:

Christopher Chantrill.

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