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What is Federal Spending?

In FY 2015, federal government spending was $3.69 trillion according to the Office of Management and Budget. Budgeted spending for FY 2016 is $4.0 trillion.

Federal Spending Analysis   also: Revenue Charts  Debt Charts  Deficit Charts  


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.


See FEDERAL BUDGET breakdown and estimated vs. actual.

MILITARY SPENDING details, budget and history.


See BAR CHARTS of spending, debt.

See PIE CHARTS of total spending, federal spending.

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 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

> State Finances FY13

> 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.

Federal Deficit and Outlay Actuals for FY15

On October 15, 2015, the US Treasury reported in its Monthly Treasury Statement (and xls) for September that the federal deficit for FY15 ending September 30 was $439 billion. Here are the numbers, including total receipts, total outlays, and deficit compared with the numbers projected in the FY 16 federal budget published in February 2015:

Federal Finances
FY15 Outcomes
Receipts $3,176$3,249
Deficit$583$439 now shows the new numbers for total FY15 outlays and receipts on its Estimate vs. Actual page.

The Monthly Treasury Statement includes ""Table 4: Receipts of the United States Government, September 2015 and Other Periods." This table of receipts by source is used for to post federal receipt actuals for FY2015.

The Monthly Treasury Statement includes "Table 9. Summary of Receipts by Source, and Outlays by Function of the U.S. Government, September 2015 and Other Periods".   This table of outlays by function makes it possible for to estimate actual outlays by "subfunction" for FY2015 by factoring budgeted amounts by the difference between budgeted and actual "function" amounts where actual outlays by subfunction cannot be gleaned from the Monthly Treasury Statement.

Final detailed FY2015 numbers will not appear until the FY2016 federal budget is published in February 2015 with the actual outlays for FY15 in Historical Table 3.2--Outlays by Function and Subfunction.

Spend links

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