Following off the back of this question on debt-to-GDP vs. debt held by public-to-GDP - Difference between "Debt Held by the Public" and "Total Public Debt Outstanding"?:

So in principle, the difference is that with debt held by public-to-GDP, treasuries that are owned by government agencies are not included in the statistic, but could somebody please provide some more detail on this?

  • What sort of government agencies are we talking about?
  • Is the debt that they hold financed by the agencies allocation from the government budget?
  • Or is the debt that these agencies hold financed by more debt?
  • Which of the two statistics are generally considered to be more important?
  • What is the point in government agencies lending the government money?
  • What is the point in government agencies receiving interest payments from the government?

Some of these questions are probably quite broad, but hopefully someone can shed some more detail on this topic.


1 Answer 1


A down-to-earth explanation (including why) that I found: https://www.thebalance.com/who-owns-the-u-s-national-debt-3306124

There are two kinds of national debt: intragovernmental and public. Intragovernmental is debt held by the Federal Reserve and Social Security and other government agencies. Public debt is held by the public: individual investors, institutions, foreign governments.

After intragovernmental holdings, the next largest category is national debt held by foreign governments. Of those, Japan has the most, followed by China.

The Federal Reserve also invests in U.S. national debt as it added liquidity to the economy during and after the Great Recession, and more recently during the pandemic.

FRED blogs are also helpful.

  • $\begingroup$ Over time, links become broken. Please avoid link only answers, and at the very least quote the gist of the argument behind the link. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Aug 24, 2019 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ Hi, welcome to economics.se, link only answers against the rules of the site please next time quote the important parts of the post $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1
    Oct 16, 2023 at 16:39

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