Holders of US Debt

Total Public Debt Outstanding on December 31, 2020 was $27.7 Trillion.

There is a lag in the government reporting of some data. For purposes of the following table, the most current period is used for each section and the balancing amount is posted in Other Investors.

Total Public Debt Outstanding is divided into two sub categories: 1) Intragovernmental Debt, and 2) Debt Held by the Public. It should be noted the government, media and may 501’s use Debt Held by the Public, an amount lower than Total Public Debt Outstanding, when quoting certain economic ratios. This results in making the debt amount and ratios appear lower and thus better than reality.

Intragovernmental Debt – $6.1 Trillion or 22% of Total Public Debt Outstanding at December 31. This debt is incurred when the government General Account borrows from Trusts and other earmarked Funds to pay for current, day-to-day, government operations. The Trust Funds include Social Security, Medicare, Federal Employees and Military pensions and benefits, and other funds.

Using Social Security and Medicare as examples, after this money is deducted from taxpayers’ paychecks it is deposited into “Trust Funds.” The General Account then borrows the excess cash in exchange for a government debt security. The Trust Funds now hold US Government Debt. The Trust Fund cash is transferred to the General Account and is used to pay current, day-today, government expenses. There is no securitization of assets or earmarked revenues to pay it back. It is only backed by the “full faith and credit of the United States” – also known as US, the taxpayers.

Debt Held by the Public – $21.6 Trillion or 78% of Total Public Debt Outstanding at December 31. This debt is incurred when the government General Account borrows from a variety of Domestic and Foreign sources, including the Federal Reserve, to pay for current, day-to-day, government operations.

US– this category includes money borrowed from both US based accounts, individuals and corporations and others representing retirement and non-retirement funds. It also includes money received from the Federal Reserve (the US central bank) when it authorizes the printing of money to magically expands the money supply. This new cash is given to the government for operations in exchange for Debt securities.

Foreign– this category includes money borrowed from individuals, corporations, and governments of many countries. Foreigners are attracted to US Debt due to the US’s high credit rating, relatively stable currency and history of repaying its Debt. Despite scares that China holds large amounts of US debt they will sell (8% using Held by the Public or  6% using Total Debt), due to cross holdings and China’s interest in keeping US currency high for balance of trade reasons, it is unlikely they will sell all of their holdings.

The following tables shows either the exact amount or an estimate of the debt by specific holders. Estimates are used since different government sources report at different times.


Holders of US Debt
Approximate (in $Billions)
December 31, 2020

Summary: % $
Held by the Public (US and Foreign) 78.0% 21,633
Intragovernmental 22.0% 6,115
Total Public Debt Outstanding 100.0% 27,748
US Fed, Retirement, Health, Inv. and Others 74.5% 20,677
Foreign (Gov's and Others) 25.5% 7,071
Total Public Debt Outstanding 100.0% 27,748
Holder Category US or Foreign Est. Total
Social Security Intragov US 2,800
Individual GSE's, B/D's, Corps, Others Public US 2.643
Federal Reserve Public US 4,694
Pensions - Federal Employees Intragov US 2,000
Mutual Funds Public US 3,495
State and Local Gov's Public US 1,086
Depository Institutions Public US 1,237
Pensions - Private Funds Public US 784
Pensions - State and Local Gov's Public US 222
Insurance Companies Public US 253
Medicare Intragov US 300
US Savings Bonds Public US 147
Trust Funds - All Others Intragov US 800
Gov Programs - All Others Intragov US 215
Sub-total US 20,677
Japan Public Foreign 1,251
China Public Foreign 1,072
United Kingdom Public Foreign 440
Ireland Public Foreign 318
Luxembourg Public Foreign 288
Brazil Public Foreign 258
Switzerland Public Foreign 256
Belgium Public Foreign 253
Cayman Island Public Foreign 225
Taiwan Public Foreign 235
Hong Kong Public Foreign 224
Cayman Islands Public Foreign 223
India Public Foreign 216
Singapore Public Foreign 168
Saudi Arabia Public Foreign 136
Saudi Arabia Public Foreign 180
Korea Public Foreign 131
Canada Public Foreign 120
France Public Foreign 111
Norway Public Foreign 88
Thailand Public Foreign 80
Germany Public Foreign 75
Bermuda Public Foreign 73
Netherlands Public Foreign 70
Israel Public Foreign 49
Poland Public Foreign 51
Philippines Public Foreign 43
UAE Public Foreign 32
Mexico Public Foreign 49
Kuwait Public Foreign 47
Sweden Public Foreign 47
Australia Public Foreign 40
All Others 215
Sub-total Foreign 7,071
Total Public Debt Outstanding 12/31/2020 27,748