Category: National Debt

News Explainer: The Economic Crisis in Sri Lanka

This post is by Avery Koop from Visual Capitalist

Sri Lanka economic crisis explained

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Explained: the Economic Crisis in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is currently in an economic and political crisis of mass proportions, recently culminating in a default on its debt payments. The country is also nearly at empty on their foreign currency reserves, decreasing the ability to purchase imports and driving up domestic prices for goods.

There are several reasons for this crisis and the economic turmoil has sparked mass protests and violence across the country. This visual breaks down some of the elements that led to Sri Lanka’s current situation.

A Timeline of Events

The ongoing problems in Sri Lanka have bubbled up after years of economic mismanagement. Here’s a brief timeline looking at just some of the recent factors.


In 2009, a decades-long civil war in the country ended and the government’s focus turned inward towards domestic production. However, a stress on local production and sales, instead of exports, increased the reliance on foreign goods.


Unprompted cuts were introduced on income tax in 2019, leading to significant losses in government revenue, draining an already (Read more...)

Timeline: 150 Years of U.S. National Debt

This post is by Marcus Lu from Visual Capitalist

Looking Back at 150 Years of U.S. Debt

The total U.S. national debt reached an all-time high of $28 trillion* in March 2021, the largest amount ever recorded.

Recent increases to the debt have been fueled by massive fiscal stimulus bills like the CARES Act ($2.2 trillion in March 2020), the Consolidated Appropriations Act ($2.3 trillion in December 2020), and most recently, the American Rescue Plan ($1.9 trillion in March 2021).

To see how America’s debt has gotten to its current point, we’ve created an interactive timeline using data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). It’s crucial to note that the data set uses U.S. national debt held by the public, which excludes intergovernmental holdings.

*Editor’s note: This top level figure includes intragovernmental holdings, or the roughly $6 trillion of debt owed within the government to itself.

What Influences U.S. Debt?

It’s worth pointing out that the national debt hasn’t always been this large.

Looking back 150 years, we can see that its size relative to GDP has fluctuated greatly, hitting multiple peaks and troughs. These movements generally correspond with events such as wars and recessions.

DecadeGross debt at start
of decade
(USD billions)
Avg. Debt Held By Public
Throughout Decade
(% of GDP)
Major Events
1910-10.0%World War I
1920-22.9%The Great Depression
1930$1636.4%President Roosevelt's New Deal
1940$4075.1%World War II
1950$25756.8%Korean War
1960$28637.3%Vietnam War
1970$37126.1% (Read more...)

The State of Household Debt in America

This post is by Aran Ali from Visual Capitalist

The growing household debt in America

The Briefing

  • U.S. household debt stands at $14.56 trillion, and has doubled since 2003
  • Student loan debt has expanded a colossal 550% in the same time frame

The State of Household Debt in America

American households are becoming increasingly indebted.

In 2003, total household debt was $7.23 trillion, but that figure has recently doubled to $14.56 trillion in 2020. With just under 130 million households in the country, this equates to an average of $118,000 of debt per household.

Here’s how the various forms of U.S. household debt compare.

Type of Debt2003 (in trillions)2020 (in trillions)% Growth
Home Equity Revolving$0.24$0.35+45%
Auto Loan$0.64$1.37+137%
Credit Card$0.69$0.82+18%
Student Loan$0.24$1.56+550%

Mortgages: Steep Price to Pay for Home Ownership

Making up roughly 70% of all household debt, and growing $5.1 trillion since 2003, mortgage debt now stands at $10.04 trillion.

A fundamental driver of mortgage activity is interest rates. Given the two variables tend to have an inverse relationship with one another, interest rates have a big impact on the affordability of housing. As long as U.S. interest rates remain near 200-year lows, its likely mortgages will maintain at elevated levels.

Students Continue Struggling with Student Debt

The second-largest form of debt is student loans. Although not quite the size of mortgages in raw dollars, student debt is the fastest growing as a percentage, having (Read more...)