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What is the spending on Social Security?

In FY 2016 the federal government spent $916 billion on Social Security.

Social Security Spending Analysis

This page shows the current trends in Social Security spending on the OASI and DI programs. There are also charts on OASI and DI spending history. See here for a general history of entitlement spending. See here for spending forecast from latest OASDI Trustees Report.

Recent Social Security Spending

Chart S.11f: Recent Social Security Spending

Chart S.12f: Recent Social Sec. Spend as Pct GDP

Social Security spending has been increasing steadily every year. Back in 2005 Old Age Survivor Insurance (OASI) spending was about $440 billion a year, and Disability Insurance (DI) spending was about $90 billion a year. By 2015 OASI had increased to $750 billion and DI to $150 billion.

Viewed from a GDP perspective, Social Security spending has been pretty stable. In 2005 spending was 4 percent of GDP. By 2015 it had increased to about 5 percent GDP.

US Social Security Spending Since 1935

Social Security benefits cost about 5 percent of GDP each year.

Social Security Program Growth

Chart S.13f: Social Security Spending since 1935

Social Security, the federal old-age pension program, was passed in 1935 in time for the 1936 presidential election. The first old-age benefits were distributed in 1938.

Social Security benefits were modest in the early years and did not exceed one percent of GDP until 1955. But the program cost increased rapidly, reaching 2.2 percent of GDP in 1960.

Benefit increase slowed somewhat in the 1960s, reaching 3.2 percent in 1971. Costs increased again in the early 1970s before peaking at 4.81 percent in 1983.

Social Security benefits as a percent of GDP slowly declined for the rest of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s down to a low of 4.0 percent of GDP in 2005. But the Great Recession o 2007-09 bumped Social Security up to 4.72 percent of GDP in 2010. Costs are expected to breach 5 percent of GDP in 2018.

 

Social Security Disability Insurance Growth

Chart S.14f: Social Security Spending

The Social Security Disability Insurance Program was enacted in the 1950s and payments began in 1958. Eligibility requirements relaxed in the 1980s.

Starting from zero in 1957 Social Security’s Disability Insurance program reached 0.5 percent of GDP in 1975.

Peaking at 0.55 percent of GDP in the early 1980s, payments declined to a low of 0.43 percent in 1990. But then payments increased, breaching 0.5 percent of GDP in 1993 and 0.6 percent of GDP in 2002. DI reached 0.7 percent of GDP in 2006 and peaked at 0.85 percent of GDP in 2011-13; DI spending is expected to decline to 0.76 percent of GDP by 2019.

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Spending Data Sources

Spending data is from official government sources.

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

Detailed table of spending data sources here.

Federal spending data begins in 1792.

State and local spending data begins in 1890.

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

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Next Data Update

> Federal Budget FY16

> 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.

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)

Spend links

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