I'm writing a paper and couldn't find a good source for what is the total dividend payout of all companies in the US markets in 2015. Where can I find numbers for this?
Exact numbers appear to be impossible to come by. However, we can infer an approximate amount by using available information for (1) total US market capitalization, and (2) the dividend yield on the largest total US market ETF.
Regarding total US market capitalization, according the the World Bank, the total US market capitalization at the end of 2015 was a little over $25 trillion. The exact number given is $25,067,359,600,000. This figure is for domestic companies only, so it does not include the ADR's of foreign companies listed on US exchanges. Click here to see the World Bank data at source. The accuracy of this number is difficult to assess. For example, consider that Market Watch give a figure of about $19.7 trillion for the date of August 15, 2015. Click here to see the Market Watch data. Let's say that $22.5 trillion is a happy medium for these two reported amounts.
Now, the largest ETF for the total US Market is the Vanguard Total US Market ETF. This ETF has an SEC (12 month) yield of 2.02%. (The iShares offering reports a near identical yield.) This ETF holds 3,668 different stocks, but it also hold 0.1% of its assets in foreign ADR's.
Combining these two values, we obtain an approximate value of $454 billion worth of dividends paid, where $454 bn = 2.02% of $22.5 tn. The fairness of this approximation is difficult to assess. For the sake of comparison, it is about 2.5% of US GDP.