The growth of government in USA
Keywords:growth of government, size of government, government employment, government expenditures.
The article examines the size and growth of governments in the United States. The three different measures are
used to define the size of government: the number or government units, their expenditures, and the number of
people they employ. The number of different government units changes over time. The number of townships has
been shrinking while the number of municipalities has been growing, an indication of increasing urbanization and
the incorporation of previously unincorporated areas. The number of special districts shoes rapid growth, a reflection
of the continuous creation of intergovernmental arrangements to perform various functions in metropolitan
areas. As a result, and reversing a prolonged decline that resulted from the consolidation of school districts, the
total number of government units is growing again.
While the total number of governments has been growing slowly in recent decades, their expenditures have
been growing rapidly. Total spending by all levels of government in the United States in 1996 was $2.993 trillion.
This does not include “off-budget spending,” that is, outstanding federal loans, guaranteed loans, and borrowing by
federally sponsored enterprises. In less than 40 years, measured in constant dollars, expenditures have more than
quadrupled, almost tripled on a per capita basis, and grown by more than half as a fraction of gross domestic
product (GDP), to 32.2 percent.