Our mountain of debt

Foreign investors hold the largest share of privately held national debt. Estimated foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities have more than quadrupled since 2001. Some experts worry about the geopolitical consequences of foreign governments investing so deeply in U.S. Treasurys. But the investments also tie the fortunes of foreign governments more closely to those of the United States.

Total national debt

Total foreign debt

(in trillions)

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4.5

4.0

3.5

3

2.5

2

1.5

1

0.5

0

U.S. debt held by Asian countries

(in trillions)

3.5

3

2.5

2

1.5

1

0.5

0

U.S. debt held by European countries

(in trillions)

1.5

1.2

1

0.8

0.6

0.4

0.2

0

U.S. debt held by Middle Eastern countries

(in billions)

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

U.S. debt held by other North American countries

(in billions)

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

U.S. debt held by Australia

(in billions)

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

U.S. debt held by South American countries

(in billions)

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

U.S. debt held by other countries

(in billions)

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

Mar.
'00

Jan.
'01

Jan.
'02

Jan.
'03

Jan.
'04

Jan.
'05

Jan.
'06

Jan.
'07

Jan.
'08

Jan.
'09

Jan.
'10

Jan.
'11

Source: U.S. Treasury Department. NOTE: Not adjusted for inflation.

Graphic: Heather Billings and Todd Lindeman - The Washington Post. Published July 17, 2011.