The federal government spent $6.48 trillion in 2022, down $920 billion from the previous year after adjusting for inflation.
Spending per person totaled $19,434 per person, a 13% decrease from 2021. Expenditures were distributed across several major categories, with the largest going toward grants to state and local governments at $3,707 per person on average, and Social Security at $3,657 per person on average.
Using data from the State of the Union in Numbers, this chart visualizes how federal spending has grown over the past 40 years.
The previous fiscal year had the greatest decrease in federal expenditures since 1980, largely due to cutbacks in the government relief programs enacted during the pandemic.
It should be noted that these per person estimates don’t represent the US population as a whole. Large portions of federal expenditures are for Americans who require aid or assistance through social programs. Other people don’t require this assistance. Still, these averages provide an overall idea of how much the federal government spends per person.
The federal government spent $19,434 per person, on average. This is more than double the amount spent on the average person in 1980 even after adjusting for inflation. Expenditures are broken up into different categories, such as:
The two spending hikes in 2009 and 2020 correspond to the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, respectively.
During these periods, the government allocated additional funding toward the standard of living and aid to the disadvantaged, state and local government grants, and other spending categories.
From the late 1980s to the late 1990s, the government allocated both a higher percentage and a greater amount of the budget toward paying off interest on the national debt. This, along with a rise in gross domestic product (GDP) would lead the US to a budget surplus from 1998 to 2001.
However, a combination of tax cuts, increased spending on national defense, and weak economic growth in the following years would return the federal government to a budget deficit in 2002. As of 2022, the US has continued to operate at a deficit every year.
The proportion of federal spending per person has changed over the past 40 years away from national defense and toward social programs.
Spending on national defense and support for veterans used to make up an average of 28.7% of federal expenditures during the 1980s, compared to an average of 18.6% between 2013 and 2022.
Per person Medicare spending has more than quadrupled since 1980, growing from 5% of the federal budget that year to 12% in 2022.
Federal funding is also distributed among various departments depending on the programs they oversee. Departments which administer the largest social programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, received most federal funding in 2022.
According to a 2022 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), spending on Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and net interest on debt is projected to outpace federal revenues by increasing amounts. The GAO considers this spending unsustainable long-term, and will require governmental action to avoid substantial debt.
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