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Debt by State

Debt by State
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In our rapidly evolving economic climate, debt management continues to pose an increasingly formidable challenge for the United States. Debt, being the deferred payment owed by a borrower to a lender, has become an integral part of the financial machinery of our nation's states and territories. From funding critical sectors like education and healthcare to bridging budget deficits and pensions, states rely heavily on borrowing. 

  • California, as the largest economy within the United States, leads the pack with a state debt totaling $520 billion, followed by New York ($368 billion) and Texas ($324 billion).
  • Large states with high population densities tend to have higher debts. This trend could be attributed to the higher concentration of the economy, which calls for greater public expenditure.
  • On the opposite side of the spectrum, smaller, less populated states such as Wyoming and Vermont carry the least debt, amounting to a mere $2 billion and $5 billion, respectively.
  • While the highest and lowest state debts vary exponentially, the median state debt lies somewhere around $53 billion, indicative of the middle-of-the-road economic performance of many of the nation's states.
  • Regionally, northeastern states seem to rank higher in state debts - with states like New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Jersey all making the top 10 list.

States with the Most Debt

The state of California unsurprisingly tops the list with the most debt, owing a colossal $520 billion. This is largely due to its sheer size and status as a global economic powerhouse. The Golden State's debt is comprised of obligations such as bonds, loans and unfunded pension liabilities.

Second on the list, the Empire State, New York reports substantial state debt of $368 billion. Factors contributing to this high amount include New York City's large population, significant infrastructure and educational costs, and generous public benefits.

Coming in third, Texas maintains a debt of $324 billion. The state's substantial population and large-scale infrastructure projects are primary contributors to this debt. 

Rounding out the top five are Illinois and Florida with $159 billion and $131 billion in debt, respectively. In Illinois, significant pension liabilities have been a major cause of its debt, while Florida's large population and substantial infrastructure needs contribute to its high figure.

Sixth through tenth on our list are Pennsylvania ($128 billion), Massachusetts ($98 billion), Ohio ($93 billion), New Jersey ($91 billion), and Washington ($90 billion). Just as with the other states, the high debts in these places can be attributed to factors like population size, infrastructure needs, public pensions, and education costs.

States with the Most Debt:

  1. California - $520 billion
  2. New York - $368 billion
  3. Texas - $324 billion
  4. Illinois - $159 billion
  5. Florida - $131 billion
  6. Pennsylvania - $128 billion
  7. Massachusetts - $98 billion
  8. Ohio - $93 billion
  9. New Jersey - $91 billion
  10. Washington - $90 billion

States with the Least Debt

Leading this category is the state of Wyoming, which sits at the very bottom of the list with a state debt as low as $2 billion. In spite of its smaller population and economy, Wyoming's fiscal prudence offers a prime example of effective debt management.

Vermont follows suit with a public debt of $5 billion, making it the second state with the least debt.

Maintaining equal state debts of $6 billion are the states of Montana and Idaho, ranking 48th and 47th respectively. Despite their largely rural landscapes, these states illustrate the influence of fiscal policy and strategic debt management in maintaining public debt at a minimum.

The fifth and sixth states with the least public debt are South Dakota and Delaware, each with a state debt of $7 billion and $8 billion respectively. Rounding off the list, each with a debt of $9 billion, are Maine and Alaska. North Dakota and New Hampshire complete the top 10 states with the least debt, each carrying a debt of $10 billion.

States with the Least Debt:

  1. Wyoming - $2 billion
  2. Vermont - $5 billion
  3. Montana - $6 billion
  4. Idaho - $6 billion
  5. South Dakota - $7 billion
  6. Delaware - $8 billion
  7. Maine - $9 billion
  8. Alaska - $9 billion
  9. North Dakota - $10 billion
  10. New Hampshire - $10 billion

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