Who owns our debt?

There are many issues surrounding the national debt, including the question of to whom is the debt owed. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden gives the latest figures.

“Well …, right now the national debt federal debt is $16 trillion. And I bet if we conducted a poll on the street and we asked people, who is the biggest holder of that debt, most people would say foreign countries, particularly China. That is actually dead wrong.

“The biggest share of that debt – 43 percent — is actually held by the government itself, including the Federal Reserve, the Social Security System and Medicare. Collectively those entities own 43 percent of the $16 trillion debt.

“Next in line comes private U.S. investors, people like you and me who invest in U.S. debt, treasury securities — treasury bills are considered very safe — either by directly through banks, through pension funds, through mutual funds, et cetera. Those private U.S. investor holdings account for 21 percent.

“Then, only then do we come to foreign owners. And right now China is the biggest foreign owner. They hold 8 percent – 8 percent — of the $16 trillion national debt, followed by Japan at 7 percent and the United Kingdom at 3 percent.

“So, the ownership of the debt, I think, is greatly at odds with what most people think it is.”


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One response on “Who owns our debt?

  1. Angela Gantt says:

    Thanks for your explanations in Economic Perspectives. I was particularly interested in reading “Who Owns Our Debt”. I, too, was under the impression that China held much more of our debt percentage than they actually do.

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