Visualizing California’s GDP Compared to Countries
California’s GDP Compared to Countries
Comedian Trevor Noah once said America is fifty little countries masquerading as one.
From an economic sense, this might carry some truth. When looking at the economic output of each state, especially the largest and wealthiest ones, they often compare to or even exceed the GDPs of entire nations.
To illustrate, this visual from StatsPanda looks at California’s $3.36 trillion GDP using data from The World Bank and compares it to 10 sizable country economies. Let’s take a closer look.
Sizing Up California’s GDP in 2021
California’s $3+ trillion GDP is an enormous figure in its own right, so it’s no surprise that it is larger than certain nations’ economic output.
But even when comparing with economies like Malaysia, Colombia, and Finland, all among the top 50 countries by GDP, California stands tall.
|Country||GDP (2021 USD)|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong||$369B|
What’s more, these 10 countries are quite densely populated, with a combined population of 653 million compared to California’s 39 million total.
A Closer Look At California’s Economy
What makes California’s GDP so vast and their economy so powerful?
Relative population is a big factor, as the state is the most populous in the U.S. with roughly 12% of the country’s population calling it home. But since California’s GDP makes up over 15% of the country’s economic output, there must be something else at work.
One key driver is the technology sector. Not only does Silicon Valley generate massive amounts of technological output, this also translates directly to wealth and economic activity. Many tech markets follow winner-take-all dynamics, bringing large revenues back to the state. In addition, smaller technology companies are frequently gobbled up by larger competitors, adding wealth back into the mix through M&A.
This might partly explain why California’s GDP is actually estimated to overtake Germany’s in the coming years and become the world’s 4th largest economy.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Which Countries Hold the Most U.S. Debt?
Foreign investors hold $7.3 trillion of the national U.S. debt. These holdings declined 6% in 2022 amid a strong U.S. dollar and rising rates.
Which Countries Hold the Most U.S. Debt in 2022?
Today, America owes foreign investors of its national debt $7.3 trillion.
These are in the form of Treasury securities, some of the most liquid assets worldwide. Central banks use them for foreign exchange reserves and private investors flock to them during flights to safety thanks to their perceived low default risk.
Beyond these reasons, foreign investors may buy Treasuries as a store of value. They are often used as collateral during certain international trade transactions, or countries can use them to help manage exchange rate policy. For example, countries may buy Treasuries to protect their currency’s exchange rate from speculation.
In the above graphic, we show the foreign holders of the U.S. national debt using data from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Top Foreign Holders of U.S. Debt
With $1.1 trillion in Treasury holdings, Japan is the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt.
Japan surpassed China as the top holder in 2019 as China shed over $250 billion, or 30% of its holdings in four years.
This bond offloading by China is the one way the country can manage the yuan’s exchange rate. This is because if it sells dollars, it can buy the yuan when the currency falls. At the same time, China doesn’t solely use the dollar to manage its currency—it now uses a basket of currencies.
Here are the countries that hold the most U.S. debt:
|Rank||Country||U.S. Treasury Holdings||Share of Total|
|3||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$655B||8.9%|
|6||🇰🇾 Cayman Islands||$284B||3.9%|
|11||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||$221B||3.0%|
|16||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||$120B||1.6%|
|17||🇰🇷 South Korea||$103B||1.4%|
As the above table shows, the United Kingdom is the third highest holder, at over $655 billion in Treasuries. Across Europe, 13 countries are notable holders of these securities, the highest in any region, followed by Asia-Pacific at 11 different holders.
A handful of small nations own a surprising amount of U.S. debt. With a population of 70,000, the Cayman Islands own a towering amount of Treasury bonds to the tune of $284 billion. There are more hedge funds domiciled in the Cayman Islands per capita than any other nation worldwide.
In fact, the four smallest nations in the visualization above—Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Bahamas, and Luxembourg—have a combined population of just 1.2 million people, but own a staggering $741 billion in Treasuries.
Interest Rates and Treasury Market Dynamics
Over 2022, foreign demand for Treasuries sank 6% as higher interest rates and a strong U.S. dollar made owning these bonds less profitable.
This is because rising interest rates on U.S. debt makes the present value of their future income payments lower. Meanwhile, their prices also fall.
As the chart below shows, this drop in demand is a sharp reversal from 2018-2020, when demand jumped as interest rates hovered at historic lows. A similar trend took place in the decade after the 2008-09 financial crisis when U.S. debt holdings effectively tripled from $2 to $6 trillion.
Driving this trend was China’s rapid purchase of Treasuries, which ballooned from $100 billion in 2002 to a peak of $1.3 trillion in 2013. As the country’s exports and output expanded, it sold yuan and bought dollars to help alleviate exchange rate pressure on its currency.
Fast-forward to today, and global interest-rate uncertainty—which in turn can impact national currency valuations and therefore demand for Treasuries—continues to be a factor impacting the future direction of foreign U.S. debt holdings.
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