Visualizing the Size of the U.S. National Debt
When numbers get into the billions or trillions, they start to lose context.
The U.S. national debt is one of those numbers. It currently sits at $19.5 trillion, which is actually such a large number that it is truly difficult for the average person to comprehend.
How big is the U.S. National Debt?
The best way to understand these large numbers? We believe it is to represent them visually, by plotting the data with comparable numbers that are easier to grasp.
Today’s data visualization plots the U.S. National Debt against everything from the assets managed by the world’s largest money managers, to the annual value of gold production.
1. The U.S. national debt is larger than the 500 largest public companies in America.
The S&P 500 is a stock market index that tracks the value of the 500 largest U.S. companies by market capitalization. It includes giant companies like Apple, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Alphabet, Facebook, Johnson & Johnson, and many others. In summer of 2016, the value of all of these 500 companies together added to $19.1 trillion – just short of the debt total.
2. The U.S. national debt is larger than all assets managed by the world’s top seven money managers.
The world’s largest money managers – companies like Blackrock, Vanguard, or Fidelity – manage trillions of investor assets in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and more. However, if we take the top seven of these companies and add all of their assets under management (AUM) together, it adds up to only $18.9 trillion.
3. The U.S. national debt is 25x larger than all global oil exports in 2015.
Yes, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Russia make a killing off of selling their oil around the world. However, the numbers behind these exports are paltry in comparison to the debt. For example, you’d need the Saudis to donate the next 146 years of revenue from their oil exports to fully pay down the debt.
4. The U.S. national debt is 155x larger than all gold mined globally in a year.
Gold has symbolized money and wealth for a long time – but even the world’s annual production of roughly 3,000 tonnes (96 million oz) of the yellow metal barely puts a dent in the debt total. At market prices today, you’d need to somehow mine 155 years worth of gold at today’s rate to equal the debt.
5. In fact, the national debt is larger than all of the world’s physical currency, gold, silver, and bitcoin combined.
That’s right, if you rounded up every single dollar, euro, yen, pound, yuan, and any other global physical currency note or coin in existence, it only amounts to a measly $5 trillion. Adding the world’s physical gold ($7.7 trillion), silver ($20 billion), and cryptocurrencies ($11 billion) on top of that, you get to a total of $12.73 trillion. That’s equal to about 65% of the U.S. national debt.
Visualizing the New Era of Gold Mining
This infographic highlights the need for new gold mining projects and shows the next generation of America’s gold deposits.
Visualizing the New Era of Gold Mining
Between 2011 and 2020, the number of major gold discoveries fell by 70% relative to 2001-2010.
The lack of discoveries, alongside stagnating gold production, has cast a shadow of doubt on the future of gold supply.
This infographic sponsored by NOVAGOLD highlights the need for new gold mining projects with a focus on the company’s Donlin Gold project in Alaska.
The Current State of Gold Production
Between 2010 and 2019, gold production increased steadily, though this growth has stagnated over the past few years.
|Year||Gold Production, tonnes||YoY % Change|
Along with a small decrease in gold production in 2020, there were no new major gold discoveries in 2021.
The fall in production and long-term lack of gold discoveries point towards a possible imbalance in gold supply and demand. This calls for the introduction of new gold development projects that can fill the supply-demand gap in the future.
Sustaining Supply: Gold for the Future
Jurisdictions play an important role when looking for projects that could sustain gold production well into the future.
From political stability to trustworthy legal systems, the characteristics of a jurisdiction can make or break mining projects. Amid ongoing market uncertainty, political turmoil, and resource nationalism, projects in safe jurisdictions offer a better investment opportunity for investors and mining companies.
Today, 10 of the top 15 mining jurisdictions for investment are located in North America, according to the Fraser Institute report published in 2023.
A Golden Opportunity
Located in Alaska, one of the world’s safest mining jurisdictions, NOVAGOLD’s 50% owned Donlin Gold project has the highest average grade of gold among major development projects in the Americas. For every tonne of ore, Donlin Gold offers 2.24 grams of gold, which is more than twice the global average grade of 1.04g/t.
Additionally, Donlin Gold is the second-largest gold-focused development project in the Americas, with over 39 million ounces of gold in M&I resources inclusive of reserves.
NOVAGOLD is focused on the Donlin Gold project in equal partnership with Barrick Gold.
Learn more about Donlin Gold .
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