What are recent trends in the ownership of 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 publicly held debt held by international investors increased, while the shares held by domestic investors and state and local governments decreased. Ownership information is estimated primarily because securities are continually resold among investors.

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

Estimated Ownership of Debt Held by the Public data: txt pdf