Who owns the federal debt?

Federal debt held by the public is owned by:

  • domestic private investors, such as individuals, banks, and pension funds;
  • state and local governments;
  • the Federal Reserve; and
  • international (i.e., outside of the U.S.) investors, including both private investors and foreign official institutions, such as central banks and national government-owned investment funds.

Between 2000 and 2012, the share of debt held by the public in international ownership increased. This trend began to reverse in 2013.

Source: GAO analysis of data from the Department of the Treasury, Treasury Bulletins and the Federal Reserve, Financial Accounts of the United States.

Note: Ownership information is estimated primarily because securities are continually resold among investors.