Big Mac Index meets National Debt Clock

September 16, 2009

A cool press release from The Economist just hit my inbox. They’ve launched a global public debt clock:

In the spirit of The Economist‘s famous Big Mac Index, the Global Public Debt Clock is not perfectly accurate, but rather is intended to provide a graphic perspective on an important economic issue.

  • Global public debt is currently at nearly $35 trillion and is predicted to rise to $45 trillion by 2011
  • US public debt is currently at $6.7 trillion and is predicted to rise to over $10 trillion by 2011
  • Chinese public debt per capita is currently $649.52. In the US, per capita debt is $21,863.70 and will rise to $32,307 per person by 2011

Another reason to take the number with a grain of salt: It only includes “publicly-held” debt. So for instance, for the U.S., the figure is $6.7 trillion. But if you include the debt the government owes itself (i.e. money borrowed from entitlement “trust funds” to finance other spending), then the figure is $11.8 trillion. And if you count the unfunded promises of Social Security and Medicare, the figure is over $60 trillion. Again, that’s just the U.S.

But it would be difficult to make comparisons across countries this way, which is why publicly-held debt is the right measure for the Economist to use. Just keep in mind that it understates the total….

Be sure to play around with the map at the bottom. It’s pretty nifty.


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fun… wish they’d add a metric on there showing the big mac equivalent of the debt per capita… sure, the US per capita is blah blah blah…

but 10,000 big macs? That’d feed a human american for at least 100 days.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

Very funny Andrew, and one has to be careful with numerators and denominators.

The clock doesn’t seem to come up in Africa, maybe the high frequency traders on Wall Street switched them off for the night.

Posted by Casper | Report as abusive