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What is Local Government Spending?

In FY 2016, total local government spending was “guesstimated” to be $1.81 trillion. In FY 2014, the latest year reported by the Census Bureau, local government spending was $1.71 trillion.

Local Government Spending Analysis  


This page shows the current trends in US local government spending. Also see charts on US spending history.

Recent US Local Government Spending

Chart S.01l: Recent Local Spending

Chart S.02l: Recent State Spending as Pct GDP

Local Government Spending was increasing modestly, year on year, in the mid 2000s. But it stopped increasing in the trough of the Great Recession in 2009. Since 2009 local spending has held steady at about $1.7 trillion a year. "Guesstimated" local spending through 2015 is expected to decline modestly.

Viewed from a GDP perspective, local government spending was steady at about 10 percent GDP in the mid 2000s and then jumped, in the Great Recession, to almost 11.5 percent GDP in 2009. But in the subsequent economic recovery local government spending has steadily declined as a percent of GDP down a little over 10 percent of GDP in 2012. Local Government spending is "guesstimated" to continue to decline through 2015.

US Local Government Spending Since 1900

Chart S.03l: Federal Spending

Local government began the 20th century as the largest sector of government, spending 4 percent of GDP. It continued this growth in the next three decades, reaching 8 percent of GDP in 1940. World War II cut a big hole in local government budgets and local spending did not exceed 8 percent of GDP again until the 1960s. Since the 1960s local government spending has steadily increased, reaching almost 11 percent of GDP in the 2010s.

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.

State-by-State Comparison of State and Local Spending

Chart S.05c: State and Local Spending Comparison

The bubble chart shows total state and local spending for each state in dollars per capita compared against the Gross State Product (GSP) in dollars per capita. The chart shows that the overwhelming number of states show a correlation between state and local spending and GSP. Notable outliers are Texas, on the low spending side and New York, Vermont, and Alaska, on the high spending side.

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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

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.

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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.

Federal Revenue by State for 2015

On April 7, 2017, we updated with the numbers from "SOI Tax Stats - Gross Collections, by Type of Tax and State, Fiscal Year - IRS Data Book Table 5" of the IRS Data Book for 2015.  The data can be viewed on the Federal Revenue by State page here.

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Spend links

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