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Where Does One U.S. Tax Dollar Go?

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See this visualization first on the Voronoi app.

A chart breaking down what all programs U.S. federal taxes fund.

Where Does One U.S. Tax Dollar Go?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on Apple or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Come tax season, a common refrain is: “what do my taxes even pay for?”

To answer that question, we visualized U.S. federal government spending by function, referencing expenditure to a single federal tax dollar.

Data is for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2023 from the U.S. Bureau of the Fiscal Service. Total spending amounts are converted to cents on the dollar and percentages, to show where one tax dollar goes.

Major Areas of U.S. Government Spending

Social security is the government’s single largest expense and where 22% of tax dollars go. Signed into law in 1935, the program was to insure against the “hazards and vicissitudes of life.” In practice, it meant the creation of a work-related contributory system in which workers secure their own retirement by taxes paid while employed.

However, an aging population threatens its sustainability because as more people retire and draw benefits, there are fewer active workers contributing to the system.

Government SpendingAmount Paid Out
of $1 Tax Dollar
🏛️ Social Security$0.22
🏥 Health$0.14
🚑 Medicare$0.14
⚔️ National Defense$0.13
💰 Income Security$0.13
📈 Net Interest$0.11
🎖️ Veterans' Benefits
& Services
$0.05
🚗 Transportation$0.02
🛒 Commerce$0.02
🔍 Other$0.04

Health and Medicare together amount to 28% of government spending. The largest health expense is grants to states for Medicaid, which helps cover medical costs for people with lower incomes. Medicare, on the other hand, is federal health insurance for people 65 and older, as well as younger people with disabilities.

National Defense accounts for 13% of government spending. This includes paying military personnel, operating and maintenance costs like fuel, buying aircraft and ships, and research and development. While fourth in terms of percentage spending, this still contributes to the largest military budget in the world—by quite a margin.

Meanwhile, Income Security (also at 13%) covers programs like unemployment compensation, nutrition assistance, and housing assistance. It also has additional retirement and disability benefits not covered by social security.

Just behind—and still well-ahead of all other government spending—is Interest Payments on government debt, coming in at about 11% of tax supported expenditure.

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Personal Finance

Mapped: The Income a Family Needs to Live Comfortably in Every U.S. State

Families in expensive states require over $270,000 annually to live comfortably.

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A map showing the income that two working adults with two children need to live comfortably in each U.S. state.

The Income a Family Needs to Live Comfortably in Every U.S. State

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Families in the top five most expensive U.S. states require an annual income exceeding $270,000 to live comfortably.

This visualization illustrates the income necessary for two working adults with two children to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in each state.

“Comfortable” is defined as the income needed to cover a 50/30/20 budget, with 50% allocated to necessities like housing and utilities, 30% to discretionary spending, and 20% to savings or investments.

The calculations for family income needed in each state were done by SmartAsset, using the cost of necessities sourced from the MIT Living Wage Calculator, last updated on Feb. 14, 2024.

Massachusetts Tops the List

Massachusetts is the most expensive state to live comfortably in, requiring a total family income of about $301,184. Hawaii ($294,611) comes in second, followed by Connecticut ($279,885).

Housing is one main reason Massachusetts is an expensive state to live in, particularly in the Boston area. In addition, the state also has a high cost of living, including expenses such as healthcare and utilities.

RankStateIncome for 2 working adults raising 2 children
1Massachusetts$301,184
2Hawaii$294,611
3Connecticut$279,885
4New York$278,970
5California$276,723
6Colorado$264,992
7Washington$257,421
8Oregon$257,338
9New Jersey$251,181
10Rhode Island$249,267
11Vermont$248,352
12Minnesota$244,774
13New Hampshire$244,109
14Alaska$242,611
15Maryland$239,450
16Nevada$237,286
17Virginia$235,206
18Illinois$231,962
19Arizona$230,630
20Pennsylvania$230,464
21Maine$229,549
22Delaware$228,966
23Wisconsin$225,056
24Utah$218,483
25Michigan$214,490
26Nebraska$213,075
27Georgia$212,826
28Montana$211,411
28Iowa$211,411
30Idaho$211,245
31North Carolina$209,331
31Ohio$209,331
33Florida$209,082
34Indiana$206,003
35New Mexico$203,923
36Wyoming$203,424
37Missouri$202,259
38North Dakota$202,176
39Texas$201,344
40South Carolina$200,762
41Kansas$196,768
42Tennessee$195,770
43Oklahoma$194,106
44Alabama$193,606
45South Dakota$192,608
46Kentucky$190,112
47Louisiana$189,613
48West Virginia$189,363
49Arkansas$180,794
50Mississippi$177,798

Meanwhile, Mississippi is the least expensive state for a family to live comfortably, requiring $177,798 per year. Arkansas ($180,794) comes in second, followed by West Virginia ($189,363). In common, all these states share low prices of housing.

Learn More About Cost of Living From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out this graphic, which ranks the median down payment for a house by U.S. state.

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