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.
How Much Student Debt Does Each State Hold?
Crippling student debt in the U.S. has reached a record high of $1.5 trillion nationwide. Today’s map breaks down which states bear the highest burden.
How Much Student Debt Does Each State Hold?
Education may be priceless, but the costs of obtaining it are becoming steeper by the day.
Almost half of all university-educated Americans rely on loans to pay for their higher education, with very few graduating debt-free. Total U.S. student debt has more than doubled in the last decade—reaching a record high of $1.5 trillion today.
Today’s data visualization from HowMuch.net breaks down the average student debt per capita, to uncover which states shoulder the highest burden in this growing crisis.
Students are Paying Through the Nose
Before diving into the graphic, let’s take a quick look at why student debt is racking up. The ballooning costs to attend college today compared to thirty years ago is one driving factor.
Source: The College Board 2018 report.
What’s more, these figures don’t include the expenses for accommodation and other supplies, which can add another $15,000-$17,000 per year.
The United States of Student Debt
In the state map above, it’s immediately obvious that Washington D.C. tops the list. While the nation’s capital is the most educated metropolitan area in the country, it also suffers from $13,320 in student debt per capita.
At approximately 147% above than the national average of $5,390, Washington D.C.’s debt burden per capita is almost double that of the state in second place. Georgia comes in with $7,250 debt per capita, 34.5% above the national average.
|State||Student Debt per Capita||Difference from Average|
|District Of Columbia||$13,320||147.1%|
Rounding out the five states with the most student debt per capita are Maryland, Minnesota, and Ohio, in that order. On the flip side, Wyoming has the least debt per capita ($3,610), which is 33.0% lower than the national average. Hawaii follows right behind at $3,780, and 29.9% below the national average.
Interestingly, a growing population on the West Coast helps to lower the debt burden for states like California, even despite the strong presence of prestigious schools. Home to Stanford, USC, UCLA, CalTech, and more, the Golden State surprisingly only has $4,530 in debt per capita.
The Last Straw?
Today’s Americans are more educated than ever before, but the sticker shock is causing some whiplash. This overall trend of spiraling student debt has significant implications on a person’s life trajectory. With many graduates unable to repay their loans on time, more of them are delaying major life milestones, such as starting a family or becoming a homeowner.
In efforts to curb this crisis, many 2020 presidential hopefuls have already started proposing plans to cancel or forgive student debt—with close attention on mid- to low-income households that would benefit the most from reduced loans.
Visualizing the Evolution of Consumer Credit
See how consumer credit has evolved through the ages — from its ancient origins, to the use of game-changing technologies like artificial intelligence.
The origin of credit dates all the way back to ancient civilizations.
The Sumerians and later the Babylonians both used consumer loans in their societies, primarily for agricultural purposes. The latter civilization even had rules about maximum lending rates engraved in the famous Code of Hammurabi.
But since then, consumer credit — and how we calculate creditworthiness — has gotten increasingly sophisticated. This is so much the case that technology now used in modern credit scoring would seem completely alien to people living just a few decades ago.
Video: Consumer Credit Through the Ages
Today’s motion graphic video is powered by Equifax, and it shows the evolution of consumer credit over the last 5,000 years.
The video highlights how consumer credit has worked both in the past and in the present. It also dives into the technologies that will be shaping the future of credit, including artificial intelligence and the blockchain.
A Brief History of Credit
We previously visualized the 5,000-year history of consumer credit, and how it dramatically changed over many centuries and societies.
What may have started as agricultural loans in Sumer and Babylon eventually became more ingrained in Ancient Roman society. In the year 50 B.C., for example, Cicero documented a transaction that occurred, and wrote “nomina facit, negotium conficit” — or, “he uses credit to complete the purchase”.
Modern consumer credit itself was born in England in 1803, when a group of English tailors came together to swap information on customers that failed to settle their debts. Eventually, extensive credit lists of customers started being compiled, with lending really booming in the 20th century as consumers started buying big ticket items like cars and appliances.
Later, the innovation of credit cards came about, and in the 1980s, modern credit scoring was introduced.
The Present and Future of Credit
The modern numeric credit score came about in 1989, and it uses logistic regression to assess five categories related to a consumer’s creditworthiness: payment history, debt burden, length of credit history, types of credit used, and new credit requests.
However, in the current era of big data and emerging technologies, companies are now finding new ways to advance credit models — and how these change will affect how consumers get credit in the future.
Consumer credit is already changing thanks to new methods such as trended data and alternative data. These both look at the bigger picture beyond traditional scoring, pulling in new data sources and using predictive methods to more accurately encapsulate creditworthiness.
In general, the future of credit will be shaped by five forces:
- Growing amounts of data
- A changing regulatory landscape
- Game-changing technologies
- Focus on identity
- The fintech boom
Through these forces, new credit models will integrate artificial intelligence, neural networks, big data, and more complex statistical methods. In short, credit patterns can be more accurately predicted using mountains of data and new technologies.
Finally, the credit landscape is set to shift in other ways, as well.
Regulatory forces are pushing data to be standardized and controlled directly by consumers, enabling a range of new fintech applications to benefit consumers. Meanwhile, the industry itself will be focusing in on identity to build trust and limit fraud, using technologies such as biometrics and blockchain to prove a borrower’s identity.
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