Use the FedGovSpend Explorer App to Understand What Federal Dollars Are Spent On

Thursday, June 10, 2021

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Ever wonder what federal tax dollars are used for?

Curious how much U.S. government spending goes toward the military, health care, or education?

Want more information on how the federal budget breaks down and the programs funded by it?

The newly released FedGovSpendTM Explorer App, available from the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, offers a user-friendly interface that does exactly that – allows you to easily navigate U.S. federal spending by purpose and spending type. The app is available for free from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Our tool gives a visual sense of where money goes and takes the further step of describing, at a manageable level of detail, the purpose those dollars serve. We believe everyone in this country ought to have easy access to this information.

FedGovSpendTM Explorer was developed by Michael Ettlinger, Director of the Carsey School, and Jordan Hensley, a policy analyst at the Carsey School. It was built and designed by Dave Coffin of nStudio.

“We wanted to create a federal spending exploration tool that is easy to understand and simple to use,” described Ettlinger. “Our tool gives a visual sense of where money goes and takes the further step of describing, at a manageable level of detail, the purpose those dollars serve. We believe everyone in this country ought to have easy access to this information.”

The app opens with a pie chart showing how spending is broken down by the big functional categories such as health, national security, and transportation. Users can easily navigate to descriptions of those uses or dive down into sub-categories of spending such as water transportation, defense-related activities, housing assistance, or unemployment compensation—or go even deeper into more detailed programs and descriptions. Spending for several years is available.

FedGovSpendTM Explorer uses official government data to show outlay expenditures—the actual amount of money spent by the federal government. Although the default presentation is organized by the purposes or uses of government spending, users who are interested in how spending is treated in the budget-making process can choose to present the data divided into mandatory (spending permanently authorized by the federal government) and discretionary (spending that Congress must approve each year) categories.

“The FedGovSpendTM Explorer app was really built to provide that high-level overview of federal spending and then a complete breakdown of that spending along types,” said Hensley. “It was made to easily be navigated and understood, ensuring that you don’t have to be an economist to figure out the data.”

FedGovSpendTM also features additional budget-related and data source information in an easily accessible sidebar. Within the sidebar you can learn about some of the technical details of spending accounting, sign up for emails announcing updates to the FedGovSpendTM app, and find contact information for the development team at the Carsey School.

To download the app to your mobile device, visit the App Store or Google Play Store. To learn more about the app and view additional definitions and federal budget resources, visit the FedGovSpend Explorer App webpage.

About the Carsey School of Public Policy: The Carsey School of Public Policy is nationally recognized for research, policy education, and bringing people together for thoughtful dialogue to address important societal challenges. To its core, the Carsey School is about making positive change and bringing about a more sustainable future. Learn more at Carsey.unh.edu.