USAFacts is a new data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative and have no political agenda or commercial motive. We provide this information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding it in the future.
We rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources. We don’t make judgments or prescribe specific policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether our quality of life is improving or getting worse – that’s for you to decide. We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government. Such debate is vital to our democracy. We hope that USAFacts will make a modest contribution toward building consensus and finding solutions.
There’s more to USAFacts than this website. We also offer an annual report, a summary report, and a “10-K” modeled on the document public companies submit annually to the SEC for transparency and accountability to their investors.
What makes USAFacts different:
Factual and Unbiased
What inspired us
USAFacts was inspired by a conversation Steve Ballmer had with his wife, Connie. She wanted him to get more involved in philanthropic work. He thought it made sense to first find out what government does with the money it raises. Where does the money come from and where is it spent? Whom does it serve? And most importantly, what are the outcomes?
With his business background, Steve searched for solid, reliable, impartial numbers to tell the story… but eventually realized he wasn’t going to find them. He put together a small team of people – economists, writers, researchers – and got to work.
We soon discovered that dealing with something as big and complex as government – with its more than 90,000 jurisdictions and 23 million employees – required an organizing framework. What better place to look than the Constitution, and, more specifically, the preamble to the Constitution? It lays out four missions: “Establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare; and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” While we don’t make judgments about policy, we all agree on the broad purposes of government as laid out in the preamble to the Constitution.
Who We Are
Our team is composed of dedicated people who are passionate about making information available to the public. Our work includes partnerships with academic institutions and experts who help keep our data accurate and unbiased. Our partners include the Penn Wharton Budget Model, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), and Lynchburg College.
We have begun documenting the processes and related controls we use to obtain, store, and present our government’s revenue, expenditures, and metrics data. Once the documentation is complete, we intend to engage a prominent accounting firm to confirm that our processes and controls are suitably designed and operate effectively to completely and accurately obtain and publish our data set.
What is USAFacts?
USAFacts is a not-for-profit, non-partisan resource of numbers and trends in government spending and results. While still in early development stage, we believe it will be the only comprehensive source of combined federal, state, and local public investment and results. Our information is drawn from public sources and is for anyone talking about or making decisions about our country – elected officials, government staff, journalists, business or community leaders, citizens, and residents. Our goals are to help inform active citizenship and fact-based debate, and advocate for transparency of and ease-of-access to public data.
Will USAFacts always be free? Are there plans for a paid premium version?
We are a not-for-profit organization committed to providing data and analysis for free.
How is USAFacts funded?
USAFacts Institute is a not-for-profit, non-partisan entity privately funded by Steve Ballmer. In order to remain completely non-partisan and free from bias, we do not accept contributions from external donors in any form (gifts, grants, donations, etc.).We do not receive tax exemption under revenue tax laws and we are not a 501(c) (3) organization.
Can I upload my own datasets to the USAFacts website?
We do not offer the ability to directly upload datasets. These are curated datasets, not simply crowd-sourced. However, we are always interested in learning about potential sources of government data. Please email [email protected] if you have data you would like to recommend.
Can I use your data? Do I need to credit USAFacts?
You can absolutely use our data! It’s really your data. It is shared under a Creative Commons license and we do ask that you credit USAFacts when using our curated material. We also love to see what users create – be sure to tag us @usafacts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Who are Steve and Connie Ballmer and why are they doing this?
Steve is the former CEO of Microsoft and current owner of the LA Clippers basketball team. He and his wife Connie, a former marketing professional with a longstanding focus on the well-being of children, co-founded The Ballmer Group to make strategic investments in non-profit efforts to improve economic mobility for children and families in the U.S who face inter-generational poverty. USAFacts grew out of an understanding that government is the largest investor in economic mobility for Americans, and more access was needed for the public to see how the money is spent and the results.
Is USAFacts part of The Ballmer Group philanthropy?
USAFacts is a separate legal entity from The Ballmer Group philanthropy. USAFacts is not a grant-making institution, nor does it advocate for any views of Steve or Connie Ballmer other than that facts matter and public data should be available and understandable.
What’s next for USAFacts?
Our primary goal is to add more data to our database, including state and local data that will allow users to find information on specific states, counties, cities, and school districts. We are also developing partnerships to deliver government data to journalists, educators, and policy-makers which suits their needs or furthers debate on a topic.
How often is your data updated?
We completely refresh the data on our website and in our reports once a year, with monthly data updates as new data is released by government agencies.
Why do you only use Government data?
For consistency and to screen for bias, we only use government data — not data curated by think tanks, academics, or any outlet expressing a viewpoint about the data. The US maintains a network of statistical agencies whose purpose it is to collect objective information on government operations and the lives of the US population. We feel this is the best source of information for data-driven decision-making. However, government data is not perfect. USAFacts also advocates for higher-quality and more timely government data .
Why is some of your data old?
We publish the most up-to-date numbers available from the government. Due to funding or staffing levels, collection and release of data can have a significant delay. For example, the Census Bureau does not plan to release 2015 government employment data until 2019 and the Department of Homeland Security has only published figures on the unauthorized immigrant population through 2014. Financial data is also slow to publish – we currently have federal financial data through 2016 and state & local financial data through 2015.
Not all government data is created equal. How do you address reliability and quality issues?
While government data is not perfect, we believe it is the best source for verifiable information about the United States. We include information on collection issues, such as the last date for which data has been reported and the number of reporting jurisdictions, alongside each metric. USAFacts is working with government agencies and Congress to improve the quality and timeliness of published data.
Do you provide government data for other countries?
We do not provide data for countries other than the United States.
Why do your financial figures differ from other government sources?
There are multiple agencies that collect and publish financial data for the US government, including the US Treasury, Federal Reserve, and Office of Management and Budget. Figures can vary across agencies depending on how data is collected and classification of certain financial assets (for instance, one of the biggest differences is the treatment of Social Security and pension obligations by Federal Reserve vs Treasury).
Do you adjust for inflation?
We allow the option to adjust financial data for inflation on our website, and generally adjust for the effects of inflation in our reports, with a few exceptions.
When is the API going to be available?
USAFacts is currently in beta and we are working to build a public API (Application Programming Interface), to allow other websites to interact with our data. A release date for this product has not been set.