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What is the Deficit?

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

In FY 2015 the federal deficit was budgeted at $583 billion.

This year, FY 2016, the federal government in its latest budget has estimated that the deficit will be 474 billion.



Federal Deficit Analysis   also: Spending Charts  Revenue Charts  Debt Charts  


Recent US Federal Deficits

Chart D.01f: Recent US Federal Deficits

Federal Deficits were declining in the mid 2000s as the nation climbed out of the 2000-02 recession. But the recession that started late in 2006 drove deficits higher, with a deficit in FY2009 driven up by over $700 billion in bank bailouts under the TARP program.

After the Crash of 2008 the federal deficits did not go below $1 trillion until FY2013.

Budgeted US Federal Deficits

Chart D.02f: Budgeted US Federal Deficits

The FY2016 federal budget estimates budget deficits out to 2020. It forecasts moderate deficits at about $500 billion per year.

But there’s more

The federal debt increases each year by more than the deficit. For FY 2016 the federal budget estimates that the federal debt will increase by about $1 trillion. That’s about $250 billion more than the official “deficit.” See Federal Debt.

But there’s more. There is the increase in debt from the “agency debt” of government-sponsored enterprises. And there is the implied deficit from unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare. See chart of latest Long-term Budget Outlook from the Congressional Budget Office.

Now you are ready to explore. Click here for the basics on the national debt and deficits. Click here for a look at overall government spending; click here for a look at the federal budget by function. And there is no better place to get up to speed than Spending 101’s online course on Federal Debt.

US Federal Deficits in the 20th Century

Chart D.03f: Federal Deficit in 20th Century

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. Federal deficits increased in the early 2000s, and went over 10 percent of GDP in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008.

In the recovery from the Crash of 2008 deficits have slowly reduced to 3 percent of GDP.

US Federal Deficits since the Founding

Chart D.04f: Federal Deficit since Founding

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.

Top Debt Requests:

Find DEFICIT stats and history.

US BUDGET overview and pie chart.


See FEDERAL BUDGET breakdown and estimated vs. actual.

See BAR CHARTS of debt.

See PIE CHARTS of total debt, federal debt.

Check STATE debt: CA NY TX FL and compare.

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

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.

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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Next Data Update

> Federal Deficit FY15

> data update schedule.

Data Sources for 2011_2020:

Sources for 2011:

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 2020:

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 FY15 Tax Update

On September 27, 2015 updated FY2015 state revenue with quarterly tax data from the US Census Bureau.  Local tax data was updated by assuming that local taxes for 2015 changed by the same percent as state taxes of the same type.

Spend links

us numbersus budgetcustom chartdeficit/gdpspend/gdpdebt/gdpus gdpus real gdpstate gdpbreakdownfederalstatelocal200920102011californiatexas

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