Another Top-10 List — The Greatest (and Least) State & Local Debt Per Capita

While the typical American has $50,090 of personal debt from credit cards, auto loans, school loans and mortgages, other debt obligations of the government are present at local, state and federal levels.  While no individual’s name is directly assigned to repay governmental debts, the residents will in one-way-or-another be taxed or pay fees to service  those obligations.

Combined state and local debts vary significantly from one location to another.   As usual, I invoke the TINSTAANREM axiom — There Is No Such Thing As A National Real Estate Market, nor is there such a thing as typical debt across state and local governments.

The Tax Foundation annually reports on all types of debts by state and local governments level on a per capita basis.  The first two tables below list the 10 states with the greatest and least amount of state debt on a per capita basis.   Massachusetts lived up to the Taxachusetts nickname coming in number one with the greatest amount of state debt per capita at $11,231 — more than 12 times Tennessee’s $912.  The District of Columbia reports only a combined local-state tax burden, so it is not included in some of these rankings.

Per capita local debt is shown in the net two tables for the top- and bottom-10 states.  Vermont, with just $207 average local debt per capita essentially has none.  New York , on the other hand, has more than 50 times as much local governmental debt per capita.  Within New York State, much of the local debt is from New York City, which began the year with $119 billion in debt outstanding.  New York City’s debt per capita is $13,800 based on 8.623 million people. This compares to a statewide average of $10,959.


Total state and local government debt per capita by state listed in the next tables.

Data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia are included in the following table, sorted alphabetically by state.

To access the Tax Foundation data click

To read the prior Stewart Blog on per capita individual debt burden for mortgages, autos, credit cards and student loans by state click

The true issues of local and state debt are the future servicing and repayment burdens on the residents.


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