News In Brief

A World Awash in Debt

Daryl Paranada Nov 12, 2010

Think the U.S. map looked red after the mid-term elections? That’s nothing compared to what it looks like in a new working paper (PDF) from the International Monetary Fund, which paints key countries of the world red – as in red ink.

The study examines government debt levels, and is among the first to compile historical data, country by country, on the growing debt burden. The U.S., for one, is much worse off now than it was during the Great Depression. In 1932, our debt totaled 33 percent of gross domestic product.

In 2009, it had ballooned to 84 percent. (see the below map from The Economist.)

The IMF economists found U.S. debt data all the way back to 1791. The peak of our profligacy: 1946, when debt was nearly 122 percent of GDP. We enjoyed a period of low debt during the mid 1800s, and there are peaks and valleys everywhere in between. We charted the data on a graph to illustrate:

Posted by: Jonathan Karp

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