I'm looking for an average or estimation of how much money public libraries cost a typical American taxpayer.

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    Libraries are funded at the local level, so the answer is going to be different for every city or county in the country.
    – divibisan
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 18:31
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    @divibisan - Nonetheless, an average or estimation of cost per typical American taxpayer, suggests to ignore such differences. The current figure should be about $40.00 per capita. The problems with answering are: older data; estimating the number of taxpayers, when different funding sources are used; and that the American Library Association web site is undergoing maintenance.
    – Rick Smith
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 18:43
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    @RickSmith Particularly with regard to money, there is also the problem that the mean is often not very representative of 'typical' (you, me and Jeff Bezos probably have a mean net worth of $50 billion ), hence the use of alternative measures such as mode or median.
    – origimbo
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 12:32
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    Another problem is that many "taxpayers" are not individual people, they're business and so on. Might be easier to figure a per capita number: for the county I live in, it was $23.46 last year.
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 22:02

1 Answer 1


I'm looking for an average or estimation of how much money public libraries cost a typical American taxpayer.

That figure is not directly available. However, available data may be used to derive an estimate.

For 2017, per capita taxation amounts to about $39.35. Using the number of housing units as a surrogate for "taxpayer," the average is about $93.67.

Housing units was selected as the surrogate because there is not a lot of difference among the various measures of "taxpayer" that may be chosen; local governments, in the US, often use property or real estate taxes on housing units for funding; and, where other types of taxes may be collected, ultimately, it is the residents of those housing units that pay those other taxes.


Public Libraries Survey Fiscal Year 2017, published June 2019, Table 8. Total per capita operating revenue of public libraries, by source of revenue and state: Fiscal year 2017

  • Total $42.34
  • Federal $0.15
  • State $2.82
  • Local $36.37
  • Other $2.99 -- This includes monetary gifts and donations received in the current year, interest, library fines, fees for library services, or grants.

Removing the "Other" category leaves $39.35 per capita.

United States Population 2017: 325,084,756

Number of housing units in the United States ... 2017: 136.57 million

Number of households in the U.S. ... 2017: 126.22 million

Summary of the Latest Federal Income Tax Data: In 2017, 143.3 million taxpayers ....

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