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What is Federal Spending?

In FY 2016, federal government spending was $3.85 trillion according to the Office of Management and Budget. Budgeted spending for FY 2017 is $4.15 trillion.

Federal Spending Analysis  


This page shows the current trends in US federal spending. Also see charts on US spending history. See also: Social Security Spending and Medicare Spending

Recent US Federal Spending

Chart S.01f: Recent Federal Spending

Chart S.02f: Recent Federal Spend as Pct GDP

Federal Spending was increasing modestly, year on year, in the mid 2000s. But it jumped by $700 billion a year in the Great Recession to bail out the banks and provide “stimulus.” Since the recession federal spending has held steady at about $3.6 trillion per year.

Viewed from a GDP perspective, federal spending was steady at about 19 percent GDP in the mid 2000s and then jumped, in the Great Recession to almost 25 percent GDP. But in the subsequent economic recovery federal spending has steadily declined as a percent of GDP down to about 20 percent in 2015.

US Federal Spending Since 1900

Chart S.03f: Federal Spending

Federal spending began the 20th century at less than 3 percent of GDP per year. It jerked above 24 percent as a result of World War I and then declined in the 1920s to 3 to 4 percent by 1929. Federal spending started to increase after the Crash of 1929, and rose above 10 percent in the depths of the Great Depression.

Federal spending exploded during World War II to nearly 48 percent of GDP, and then declined to about 15 percent in the late 1940s.

In the Korean War of the early 1950s federal spending increased to over 20 percent of GDP, and then declined to about 17 to 18 percent by the end of the 1950s. In the 1960s federal spending began a slow increase to about 22 percent of GDP in the early 1980s, and then declined modestly to about 18 percent by 2000.

In the 2000s federal spending increased modestly to about 20 percent of GDP before exploding to 24 to 25 percent in the Crash of 2008.

US Federal Spending since the Founding

Chart S.04f: Federal Spending since the Founding

Federal spending in the first half of the 19th century stayed typically below 2 percent of GDP except in wartime. In the Civil War, federal spending exploded to 13 percent of GDP. After the Civil War spending gradually declined. It dropped below 4 percent of GDP in 1872 and below 3 percent of GDP in 1880. Thereafter, federal spending hovered between 2.5 percent and 3 percent of GDP until World War I. Federal spending peaked at 24 percent of GDP and declined below 4 percent in the 1920s. Federal spending reached 10 percent of GDP in the 1930s before rocketing to 48 percent of GDP at the end of World War II. From the end of World War II to the mid 1980s federal spending gradually increased from 15 percent to 22 percent and then declined to below 20 percent of GDP by 2000. Spending drafted back above 20 percent of GDP in the 2000s before increasing to 25 percent of GDP in the Crash of 2008.

Top Spending Requests:

Find DEFICIT stats and history.

Get WELFARE stats and history.

US BUDGET overview and pie chart.


DOWNLOAD spending data or debt data.

See FEDERAL BUDGET breakdown and estimated vs. actual.

MILITARY SPENDING details, budget and history.


See BAR CHARTS of spending, debt.

Check STATE spending: CA NY TX FL and compare.



Take a COURSE at Spending 101.

Make your own CUSTOM CHART.

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 1820.

State and local spending 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


> data update schedule.

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.

US Gross Output for 2016 Released

On April 24, 2017, updated its Gross Output series with the latest data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, including nominal Gross Output for calendar 2016 of $32.189 trillion. Gross Output for some years previous to 2016 have been revised by BEA. now reports Gross Output on its Spending Details page and permits charting of spending and revenue as "percent of Gross Output".

The Gross Output series extends back to 1947.

Budget News

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Spend links

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