Decade of Debt: Federal Debt Up More Than $10 Trillion in 2010s

By Terence P. Jeffrey | December 31, 2019 | 12:21pm EST
Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017. (Getty Images/Kevin Dietsch-Pool)
Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017. (Getty Images/Kevin Dietsch-Pool)

( - The federal debt increased by a record $10,796,419,662,320 in the decade that is coming to a close today, according to data published by the U.S. Treasury.

This was the first decade in the history of the nation when increases in the federal debt averaged more than $1 trillion per year.

The total federal debt accumulated during the decade has equaled approximately $83,967 per household. (The Census Bureau estimates there are currently approximately 128,579,000 households in the country.)

On Dec. 31, 2009, the last day of the last decade, the federal debt stood at $12,311,349,677,512.30. As of Dec. 27, 2019, the latest day for which the Treasury has reported the debt numbers, the federal debt stood at $23,107,769,339,832.41.

That amounts to an increase of $10,796,419,662,320.11 for the decade.

In the decade that ran from 2000 through 2009, the federal debt increased by $6,535,258,363,286.97.

Even when that is adjusted for inflation (from December 2009 dollars to current dollars) it equals approximately $7,783,878,290,000—or more than $3 trillion less than the debt accumulated in the 2010s.

In the fifteen full decades that have now elapsed since the Civil War, there have been only three decades when the federal government reduced its debt rather than increased it, according to data published in the Treasury Department’s monthly debt statements. In the 1870s, the debt declined by $453,144,228. In the 1880s, it declined by $594,761,815. In the 1920s, it declined by $8,853,892,229.

From the 1930s onward, the federal debt has increased in every decade.

Here is the amount the federal debt has increased (or decreased) in each decade since the 1870s. (Decreases are shown in red.):

The business and economic reporting of is funded in part with a gift made in memory of Dr. Keith C. Wold.


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