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Visualizing Who Holds U.S. Debt Internationally

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Everyone knows that the U.S. Federal Government has roughly $20 trillion of debt. A question we often get, however, is who exactly owns all these treasuries? And if it’s held abroad by countries like China, what portion do they hold?

Today’s infographic comes from TitleMax, and it looks at who owns U.S. debt internationally, as well as the debt from other countries that is held by the U.S.

Visualizing Who Holds U.S. Debt Internationally

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Who Holds U.S. Debt?

Federal government debt in the United States can be broadly placed in two categories: “Debt held by the public” and “Intragovernmental debt”. The former category includes securities held by individual investors, corporations, local and state governments, the Federal Reserve, and foreign governments.

Meanwhile, intragovernmental debt includes securities held in accounts administered by other federal authorities. This category, for example, would include treasuries owed to the Social Security Trust Fund.

Here’s the tallies of these two categories as of December 2016:

  Federal U.S. Debt (Billions)
Debt held by the public $14,202.1
Intragovernmental debt $5,395.7
Total debt $19,597.8

Debt Held By the Public

“Debt held by the public” is the most interesting of these, and it can be further broken down:

Entity U.S. Debt Held (Billions)
Foreign/International $6,154.9
Federal Reserve* $2,490.6
Mutual Funds $1,524.8
State and Local Gov’ts (incl. pensions) $899.4
Banks $620.3
Private pension funds $549.1
Insurance Companies $344.8
U.S. Savings Bonds $165.8
Other $1,449.1

*Note: Data for Fed is for marketable securities only. All data in this table from September 2016.

About 43% of all debt held by the public is actually owned by foreign governments, corporations, and individuals.

U.S. Debt Held Internationally

Here’s how that breaks down by country:

Country U.S. Debt Held (Billions)
Japan $1,090.8
China $1,058.4
Ireland $288.2
Cayman Islands $263.5
Brazil $259.2
Switzerland $229.9
Luxembourg $223.4
United Kingdom $217.1
Hong Kong $191.4
Taiwan $189.3
India $118.2
Saudi Arabia $102.8
Others $1,771.7

Note: This data is from December 2016

Article by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist

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