The 10 U.S. City Governments With the Most Debt (Did Yours Make the List?)

Behind the glitz and glamour, these U.S. cities are drowning in debt.
Updated April 11, 2024
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It can be tough to pay your bills when you’re struggling to get ahead financially or have a surprise expense like a major home repair or healthcare bill.

But what about city governments? Like individuals, cities can run up large amounts of debt and may not have a quick solution to pay it back.

Check out this list of the city governments with the most debt per resident to see if your city made the list, according to Truth in Accounting.

If you have more than $10,000 in debt from credit cards, medical bills, collections, or personal loans, this company might be able to assist you in consolidating your debt into one low monthly payment.

10. Miami

littleny/Adobe Miami Florida skyline and bay at sunset seen through palm trees

Miami’s debt burden would equal about $14,000 per resident if it were divided up and paid for by those who live there.

The debt, based on the city’s 2021 fiscal budget, is 1.4% lower than in 2017, making it the most steady debt among the top 10 cities with the highest debt per resident.

9. Pittsburgh

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Pittsburgh Pennsylvania skyline

If the debt were divided among those living in Pittsburgh, each resident would have to pay $14,600.

However, that’s an 18% decrease in debt compared to 2017, relieving some potential burdens on residents.

8. Dallas

Oleksandr Dibrova/Adobe Dallas City skyline at dusk

The debt in Dallas is only $100 more compared to Pittsburgh, with $14,700 in debt per resident.

But Dallas had the most significant decrease on this list, with a 31.9% decline in debt per resident compared to 2017.

7. St. Louis

Kovcs/Adobe cityscape on the mississippi river

St. Louis residents would have to pay $18,000 per resident to cover the debt of the city. That’s a 7.8% increase in debt compared to 2017, according to Truth in Accounting.

6. Philadelphia

pabrady63/Adobe Philadelphia Sunset Skyline Refection

The City of Brotherly Love doesn’t have much love for residents regarding debt, with $21,800 in debt per resident.

The city is improving and had the second-biggest cut in debt on this list, with a 21.9% decline per resident compared to 2017.

5. New Orleans

f11photo/Adobe streetcar in downtown New Orleans USA

New Orleans comes in fifth on this list of cities with the most debt per resident, with $22,700 per resident.

The rise in debt in the city is the highest on this list, with a 32.7% increase since 2017 in debt per resident.

4. Portland

Andy/Adobe portland skyline in front of water during day time

In Oregon, Portland has a calculated debt of $23,400 per resident based on its 2021 fiscal year.

It has also seen an increase in debt per resident, with a 15.3% rise compared to 2017.

3. Honolulu

Maridav/Adobe Honolulu city view from Diamond Head

Honolulu’s debt comes in at $26,100 per resident, marking a 13.5% increase in debt-per-resident cost in 2021 compared to four years earlier.

One factor may be the city’s cost of living, which is 84% higher than the U.S. average, making Honolulu the second most expensive area to live in based on the cost of living (behind Manhattan, New York).

2. Chicago

maksymowicz/Adobe Chicago downtown at night

Chicago’s debt could be covered if each resident paid $41,900 to cover any debt issues with the city, marking a 16.4% increase in the debt.

One of the biggest issues Chicago faces when it comes to debt is the funding of its pension funds for city workers, which are a bigger burden to Chicago residents than other cities.

1. New York City

f11photo/Adobe Statue of Liberty and New York city skyline at sunset

New York City was first on this list, with $56,900 in debt per resident in 2021, according to Truth in Accounting. That figure, however, represents an 11.2% decline in debt per resident compared to its 2017 fiscal year.

The city is home to Manhattan, which has a cost of living that’s 127.7% higher than the national average, and Brooklyn, with a cost of living that’s 68.6% higher than the national average.

Bottom line

Andrey Popov/Adobe tax accountant advisor man doing accounting

Whether you're a city or an individual, finding ways to climb out of debt is essential. Make sure you have a budget to help you keep your costs in check so you don’t fall into debt like some of these cities.

And like cities, you can find a good financial advisor to help you adjust your financial plans to pay down debt, spend within your means, or find new ways to save money.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and

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