# How to find US total debt?

Sorry i'm not really an economist but I don't know where else to ask.

I'm reading Ray Dalio's Big Debt Crises and he has several graphs for total US debt burdens

https://imgur.com/a/tPX3LuH

where it's about 350% of GDP in 2008, but when i can't seem to find source for total debt, only federal debt which seems to only be around 68% at the time

i'd like to find other countries total debt to GDP ratios too if possible. how do i go about this?

Thanks!

The figure provided by that author is widely inaccurate according to the official statistics.

According to the OECD the general government debt to GDP ratio ratio in 2008 was just $$102\%$$. Moreover, here is comparison to other countries:

Moreover, general government is by OECD defined thusly:

General government consists of central, state and local governments and the social security funds controlled by these units. General government accounts presents data on fiscal balance, debt, revenues, expenditure, costs and reserves of governments. Central government consists of the institutional units making up the central government plus those non-profit institutions that are controlled and mainly financed by central government. The political authority of central government extends over the entire economy. Central government can impose taxes on all residents and non-resident units engaged in economic activities within the country.

So it does include central, state and local government and even non-profits that are mainly financed by public funds.

Hence either there are some caveats that you are not mentioning in your question (perhaps it does not include just government debt but also some private debts or present value of unfunded future liabilities) or the author of the book made a mistake.

• >Hence either there are some caveats that you are not mentioning in your question (perhaps it does not include just government debt but also some private debts or present value of unfunded future liabilities) or the author of the book made a mistake. I assume he's talking about total debt of a country including debts held by companies? but im not entirely sure. I figured it's a very mainstream book and Ray Dalio is a pretty famous guy but I can't seem to find clarification anywhere. – Dale Baker Nov 22 '20 at 16:46
• @DaleBaker well it is definitely not considered mainstream or appropriate to mix public and private debt of a country as those are not the same and affect economy differently. Also I am graduate student at relatively good ranked institution with focus on macro and I also hold Msc in public policy, I regularly attend conferences and I never heard about the guy or book. The guy has no serious peer reviewed publication record to speak of and from what I can see from his Wikipedia page he is not even an economist -he has MBA and is hedge fund manager. He is definitely not famous amongst economists – 1muflon1 Nov 22 '20 at 17:14
• seems strange to me but i guess the overlap of fund managers/investors and economists isn't as high as I thought it'd be. Thanks for the info tho! I appreciate the insight. I'm just a software engineer who invests on the side so obviously a lot I don't know! – Dale Baker Nov 22 '20 at 22:09
• @DaleBaker no there isn’t much, that is like comparing physicists and engineers or political scientists and politicians. There is some superficial overlap and some relationship but only very loose one, you can be a successful hedge fund manager with virtually no understanding of economics and vice versa. I also don’t think that it is very strange. The same way as politicians need charisma but not inquisitiveness and political scientists need to be inquisitive but don’t need charisma, hedge fund managers need to mainly have some salesmanship and managerial skills not research skills – 1muflon1 Nov 22 '20 at 22:16

The World Bank's "World Development Indicators (WDI)" data bank is important and authentic source to get answers for your question.

WDI is the primary World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized international sources.

It includes different series of data (Current & Historical) for countries around the world. Include of course what your are asking about: debt % of GDP.

You can also extract and download the data you selected in different types (Tables, maps, charts) and formats (Excel, CSV)