Formula and What It Can Tell You


What Is the Debt-to-GDP Ratio?

The debt-to-GDP ratio is the metric evaluating a rustic’s public debt to its gross home product (GDP). By evaluating what a rustic owes with what it produces, the debt-to-GDP ratio reliably signifies that specific nation’s means to pay again its money owed. Typically expressed as a share, this ratio will also be interpreted because the variety of years wanted to pay again debt if GDP is devoted totally to debt compensation.

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Key Takeaways

  • The debt-to-GDP ratio is the ratio of a rustic’s public debt to its gross home product.
  • The debt-to-GDP ratio will also be interpreted because the variety of years it will take to pay again debt if GDP was used for compensation.
  • The upper the debt-to-GDP ratio, the much less possible the nation can pay again its debt and the upper its danger of default, which may trigger a monetary panic within the home and worldwide markets.

Method and Calculation for the Debt-to-GDP Ratio

The debt-to-GDP ratio is calculated by the next method:

Debt to GDP


Complete Debt of Nation

Complete GDP of Nation

beginaligned &textDebt to GDP = frac textTotal Debt of Nation textTotal GDP of Nation endaligned

Debt to GDP=Complete GDP of NationComplete Debt of Nation

A rustic capable of proceed paying curiosity on its debt—with out refinancing, and with out hampering financial development—is mostly thought of to be secure. A rustic with a excessive debt-to-GDP ratio usually has hassle paying off exterior money owed (additionally referred to as public money owed), that are any balances owed to outdoors lenders. In such eventualities, collectors are apt to hunt increased rates of interest when lending.

Extravagantly excessive debt-to-GDP ratios could deter collectors from lending cash altogether.

What the Debt-to-GDP Ratio Can Inform You

When a rustic defaults on its debt, it usually triggers monetary panic in home and worldwide markets alike. As a rule, the upper a rustic’s debt-to-GDP ratio climbs, the upper its danger of default turns into.

Though governments attempt to decrease their debt-to-GDP ratios, this may be troublesome to attain during times of unrest, resembling wartime or financial recession. In such difficult climates, governments have a tendency to extend borrowing to stimulate development and increase mixture demand. This macroeconomic technique is attributed to Keynesian economics.

Economists who adhere to fashionable financial concept (MMT) argue that sovereign nations able to printing their very own cash can’t ever go bankrupt, as a result of they’ll merely produce extra fiat foreign money to service money owed. Nevertheless, this rule doesn’t apply to nations that don’t management their financial insurance policies, resembling European Union (EU) nations, who should depend on the European Central Financial institution (ECB) to concern euros.

Good vs. Unhealthy Debt-to-GDP Ratios

A examine by the World Financial institution discovered that nations whose debt-to-GDP ratios exceed 77% for extended intervals expertise vital slowdowns in financial development. Pointedly, each share level of debt above this stage prices nations 0.017 share factors in financial development. This phenomenon is much more pronounced in rising markets, the place every extra share level of debt over 64% yearly slows development by 0.02%.


U.S. debt-to-GDP for Q2 2022—virtually double early 2008 ranges however down from the all-time excessive of 135.9% seen in Q2 2020.

The U.S. has had a debt-to-GDP of over 77% since 1Q 2009. To place these figures into perspective, the U.S.’s highest debt-to-GDP ratio was beforehand 106% on the finish of World Battle II, in 1946.

Debt ranges steadily fell from their post-World Battle II peak, earlier than plateauing between 31% and 40% within the Nineteen Seventies—in the end hitting a historic 23% low in 1974. Ratios have steadily risen since 1980 after which jumped sharply following 2007’s subprime housing disaster and the next monetary meltdown.

The landmark 2010 examine entitled “Progress in a Time of Debt,” carried out by Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, painted a depressing image of nations with excessive debt-to-GDP ratios. Nevertheless, a 2013 assessment of the examine recognized coding errors, in addition to the selective exclusion of knowledge, which purportedly led Reinhart and Rogoff to make errant conclusions.

Particular Concerns

The U.S. authorities funds its debt by issuing U.S. Treasuries, that are extensively thought of to be the most secure bonds in the marketplace. The nations and areas with the ten largest holdings of U.S. Treasuries (as of August 2022) are as follows:

  1. Japan: $1.2 trillion
  2. China: $971 billion
  3. United Kingdom: $645 billion
  4. Cayman Islands: $307 billion
  5. Luxembourg: $306 billion
  6. Switzerland: $295 billion
  7. Belgium: $288 billion
  8. Eire: $275 billion
  9. France: $234 billion
  10. Taiwan: $233 billion
  11. Brazil: $232 billion

What Is the Important Threat of a Excessive Debt-to-GDP Ratio?

Excessive debt-to-GDP ratios may very well be a key indicator of elevated default danger for a rustic. Nation defaults can set off monetary repercussions globally.

How Does Trendy Financial Principle View Nationwide Debt?

Trendy financial concept (MMT) suggests sovereign nations don’t must depend on taxes or borrowing for spending since they’ll print as a lot as they want. Since their budgets are usually not constrained, such because the case with common households, their insurance policies are usually not formed by fears of rising nationwide debt.

Which Nations Have the Highest Debt-to-GDP Ratios?

As of 2020, Venezuela had the best stage of basic authorities debt-to-GDP ratio of the nations for which the IMF had out there knowledge at 304%. Subsequent was Japan, with a studying of 254%. The U.S. was sixth with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 134%.