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US Government Spending As Percent Of GDP

Chart S.01t: National Spending in trillions

Chart S.02t: National Spending in percent GDP

The two charts show above show recent spending and estimates of future spending for all levels of government in the United States. On the left is a chart of spending in current dollars. On the right is a chart of spending as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

US Total Government Spending Since 1900

Chart S.03t: Total Government Spending

Government spending at the start of the 20th century was less than 7 percent of GDP. It vaulted to almost 30 percent of GDP by the end of World War I, and then settled down to 10 percent of GDP in the 1920s. In the 1930s spending doubled to 20 percent of GDP. Defense spending in World War II drove overall government spending over 50 percent of GDP before declining to 22 percent of GDP in the late 1940s. The 1950s began a steady spending increase to about 36 percent of GDP by 1982. In the 1990s and 2000s government spending stayed about constant at 33-35 percent of GDP, but in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008 spending has jogged up to 40 percent of GDP.

Federal, State, Local Spending in 20th Century

Chart S.04t: Federal State and Local Spending
in 20th Century


At the start of the 20th century, government spending was principally local government spending. Out of a total of 7 percent of GDP, a full 4 percent was spent at the local level. Federal spending spiked in World War I, but in the 1920s, local government still represented about half of all government spending. In the 1930s this changed, and federal spending surged to about half of all government spending. After the spike of World War II the federal share increased again and state government spending also began to increase as a percent of GDP, so that by the 2010s federal spending checked in at over 20 percent of GDP, state spending amounted to 8 to 9 percent of GDP and local spending exceeded 10 percent of GDP.

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Spending Data Sources

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 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.

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

> US GDP CY14

> data update schedule.

Data Sources for 2010_2020:

Sources for 2010:

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 Finances for FY 2013

On February 3, 2015 the US Census Bureau released data on state finances for FY 2013 here, including spending and revenue for each individual state and for all states combined.

On February 3, 2015 we updated state and local spending and revenue data for FY2013 through FY2020 as follows:
  1. We replaced "guesstimatedstate spending and revenue data for FY2013 using the new FY2013 data from the Census Bureau.
  2. We replaced "guesstimatedlocal spending and revenue data for FY 2013 with estimates for each spending and revenue category using the trends in state finances between FY 2012 and FY 2013.
  3. We replaced "guesstimatedstate revenue data for FY 2014 with data from the Census Bureau's quarterly state tax summary here.
  4. We replaced "guesstimatedlocal revenue data for FY 2014 with estimates for each category using trends for each category of state revenue between FY 2013 and FY 2014.
  5. We replaced "guesstimated" state and local spending and revenue for FY 2014 thru FY2020 with new guesstimates based on the latest Census Bureau data for FY 2013 state finances and FY 2014 quarterly tax data.
We expect the Census Bureau to release local spending and revenue data for FY 2013 not earlier than Summer 2015.

Spend links

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

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