Your Share of Your State’s Debt

States are taking on more debt. CNN Money provides a wonderful tool that tells your state’s burden per capita. It’s a map. Simply slide your mouse around, and see the bad news.

Interestingly, those states we would call Red (vote Republican in Electoral College) tend to have far less per capita debt than those states that go Blue (vote Democrat in the Electoral College) — FWIW, and mileage varies.

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2 Responses to Your Share of Your State’s Debt

  1. An impressionistic look over the map suggests to me a stronger correlation than that red states tend to lower debt. It seems that the states which have a higher per capita debt also tend to be more populous and more urban, with some conspicuous exceptions, like Texas. Some (uninformed) thoughts why this might be so (I stand to be corrected, mileage may vary, et cetera, und so weiter):

    1. Rural areas tend to get, per capita, larger federal subsidies, and therefore their states need to take on less debt as a rule. (The type of subsidies I’m thinking of are farm subsidies and access to federally owned grazing land. I confess ignorance on the extent of both these types of subsidies, and my knowledge is particularly weak when it comes to grazing (in other words, I might be dead wrong here), but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case.) I also would be interested to know how much in federal subsidies urban areas, or strategically selected pockets, of Texas.

    2. I speculate that most urban areas, as a general rule, simply require a larger investment on the part of the state government (to manage unemployment, to police crime, to regulate and oversee the sheer volume of market transactions), an investment made even more demanding if federal subsidies to cities are markedly lower than they are to rural areas. (I haven’t established that they are lower, but if they are….)

  2. AMW says:

    Political outlook is probably a significant variable. But I think a lot of it comes down to, as Pierre points out, population. States with a lot of people are, by definition, places where a lot of people want to live. Governments in those states can charge higher prices and still count on a large population willing to stay there. A lot of those high-debt states also have high current tax burdens. And an increase in debt is just an increase in the future tax burden.

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