Massachusetts has more outstanding debt per capita than any other state government. The state is $76 billion in the red, or $11,379 per person, or $2,000 more than the next highest state, Rhode Island.
Tennessee has only $953 of debt per person, or 8 percent of Massachusetts’ debt per person. Next at the low-end is Nebraska, with only $988 in debt per person.
States that had Republican governors in 2013 averaged $2,902 of debt per person, while states led by Democratic governors averaged $5,131. State government debts have been amassed over time, so it would be an oversimplification to blame a state’s current administration for its debt levels.
Nationwide, state governments owe $1.1 trillion in debt, or $3,597 per person. In 2013, federal government debt stood at $37,860 per person. That’s more than 10 times higher than state government debts nationwide, and 3.3 times higher than Massachusetts.
Nationwide, local governments are also more in debt than state governments. Local governments are $1.9 trillion in debt, or $5,838 per person.
Every state in the Northeast has at least $5,000 in debt per person, with the exceptions of Pennsylvania and Maine. Alaska and Hawaii are the only states outside the Northeast to have more than $5,000 in debt per person. Six of the 10 states that have under $2,000 in debt per person are in the South.
These debt totals do not include unfunded pension liabilities, which in many cases match or even exceed state debt levels. But such liabilities can increase debt levels to the extent that states are forced to borrow in order to fund them. States can also reduce their debts on paper by failing to fund employees' pensions.
California’s per-person debt ranks somewhere toward the middle at $3,970 in debt per person — 18th highest in the nation. The state is $152 billion in debt, more than any other state.
Wyoming, which has the smallest state population, also has the least debt: $1 billion.
These numbers are from fiscal year 2013, and provided by the Census Bureau.