Take a Deeper Dive into Federal Government Spending with USAspending.gov’s Data Lab

If you haven’t visited USAspending.gov lately, do yourself a favor and check it out (as soon as you’re done reading this post, of course). The website’s revamped design goes far deeper than just a new coat of paint.

For example, USAspending.gov’s new Data Lab beta site could prove to be a (heavenly) time-suck for data analysis nerds.

Its excellent visuals and interactive charts make diving into the world of government spending a little like exploring Hawaii’s coral reefs.

Hawaiian coral reefs

Photo Credit: National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration

What is the USAspending.gov Data Lab?

The Data Lab is “an initiative by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to create visualizations and analyses using federal spending data to help the public, researchers, government entities and others understand, and use the data from USAspending.gov.”


What does this look like in practice?

Here’s a sampling of the topics you can dive into on the Data Lab beta site:

  • Explore the federal government’s “almost 2,000 bank accounts.” An interactive “tree-style” visualization lets you see how money was spent in FY 2017.
  • Learn how federal spending relates to the government’s main functions: “Budget Functions are categories that describe the purpose of federal spending (the why), and Object Classes are categories that describe what goods and services were purchased (the what). This visualization will shed light on both categories and help you draw connections between them.”
  • Analyze how federal programs are trying to meet the challenge of homelessness through grants.

The Data Lab also provides an Analyst Guide with “hints to help you conduct data analyses.”

So even if you’re a little overwhelmed by all of the data, you can get guidance on how to interpret and use it. Think of the Analyst Guide as your underwater oxygen tank.

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