Kentucky Population 2018


Previously a part of Virginia, Kentucky became its own territory and became the 15th state in the US Union in 1792. From those early beginnings it has grown to become the 26th largest state in terms of population with an estimated population of 4.47 million.

Kentucky's estimated population of 4.47 million in 2018 reflects a modest rise on the official Census figures from 2010. Kentucky currently has a population growth rate of 0.47%, which ranks 34th among the US states.

Kentucky Demographics and Distribution

Kentucky's population density is currently 109.9 people per square mile, and the state's total population has grown every decade since figures were first recorded. Still, most decades during the 20th century have seen a net out-migration from Kentucky, and rural counties have experienced a loss while urban areas have gained in population. Interestingly, the urban versus rural population of Kentucky remains fairly equal, although poverty is far more rampant in the rural areas of the state.

In terms of population density, Kentucky is fairly densely filled and from a total surface area of 40,409 square miles, (104,659 square kilometres), there is an average of around 110 people per square mile, or 42.5 per square kilometer. This makes Kentucky the 22nd most densely populated state in the US.

Kentucky Population History

Kentucky was part of Virginia prior to its admission as a State on June 1, 1792. It had essentially its present boundaries, except that because of erroneous surveys portions of the Kentucky-Tennessee boundary were in dispute for many years until finally resurveyed in 1859.

Kentucky was reported separately from Virginia in 1790; the county boundaries at that time corresponded to the present-day State lines between Kentucky and Virginia-West Virginia. Census coverage in 1790 included much of the State's territory, but the area west of the Tennessee River (the Jackson Purchase) was first enumerated in 1820.

Kentucky Population Chart

Kentucky Population History

Although Kentucky was incorporated into the United States in 1792, population figures are available from the 1790 Census, and at the time, it was revealed that 73,677 people were living in the state.

Like most areas of the US, Kentucky was undergoing a population explosion in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and by the time the next Census was undertaken in 1800, those numbers had grown by nearly 200% to 220,955.

That was by far the largest population spike, but significant increases carried on throughout the 1800s and by the time of the 1900 Census, the Kentucky population had grown to 2,147,174.

The 20th century continued to produce healthy rises through the present day, where the Kentucky population of 2016 is starting to nudge the 4.5 million mark.

Natural Growth

In 2006, figures were released with regards to natural growth and the impact that it had on the population of Kentucky. These figures showed that in the six years following the 2000 Census, there had been an increase in numbers of 77,156 people: a figure that is derived from 287,222 births less 210,066 deaths and an increase following net migration of 59,604.

Kentucky’s future

The population of Kentucky is rising, even if it isn’t at such a spectacular rate as some parts of the country. There is, however, no reason to suggest that this trend won’t continue. While some counties are experiencing a decline in growth, some counties are growing at a rate over 40%, including Spencer, Scott and Boone counties. Since 2000, more than one-third of the growth in the state has occurred in the Louisville area, and this is expected to continue.

The Kentucky population is projected to reach 4.6 million by the 2020 Census and will nearly surpass the 5 million mark a decade later. By 2050, it's estimated that Kentucky will have a total population of 5.3 million.

Population Data via US Census

Kentucky Growth Rate

Kentucky Population Rank

Year Pop % Change

Kentucky Facts

Kentucky Population in 2018Source: Chris Watson

  • The first permanent settlement in the state of Kentucky was in Harrodsburg in 1774. It was settled by American pioneer James Harrod.
  • Just one year later, in 1775, Daniel Boone founded Boonesboro.
  • Prior to being settled, Shawnee and Cherokee Indians used the land that is now Kentucky as hunting grounds.
  • The song "Happy Birthday to You" was written by two sisters in Louisville in 1893.
  • Fort Knox is the site of the largest amount of stored gold, holding $6 billion worth in its underground vaults.
  • More than half of the Americans killed in the War of 1812 were from Kentucky.
  • The world's lonest cave, Mammoth Cave, is the second-oldest tourist attraction in the US.

Kentucky Population Density by County

Jefferson County

  • Population767,335
  • Density2016.89 per sq km
  • Growth Since 20103.41%
  • State Rank1
  • % of State17.30%

Kentucky Population Growth Rate by County

Some of Kentucky's counties have exhibited significant growth since the 2010 Census. According to 2015 US Census Bureau estimates, Scott County posted the highest growth rate percentage at 10.48%. Shelby County, located to the west, saw similar high growth at 7.94%. Further south, Warren County reflected growth of over 7%, the third highest in the state. Other counties that exhibited growth include Madison, Bath, and Boone, although there are many other counties that also grew between 2010 and 2015.

Data also shows that some counties showed declining growth rates. With a -12.84% growth rate, Lee County saw the biggest decline during the 5-year period. Other counties, primarily located in the southeastern corner of the state, also reflected negative growth, including the counties of Harlon, Leslie, and Floyd.

Kentucky Population Pyramid 2018

0k5k10k15k20k25k30k35kKentucky Male Population0k5k10k15k20k25k30k35kKentucky Female Population80757065605550454035302520151050

To compare Kentucky to other states, click here.

Population by Race

Race Population
Black or African American366,157
Two or More Races92,135
Some Other Race37,591
American Indian and Alaska Native11,140
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander2,307

African Americans previously made up 25% of the population in Kentucky prior to the Civil War, but their numbers declined as many moved to the more industrial North. 44.2% of African-Americans in Kentucky are located in Jefferson County, while 52% are in the Louisville Metro Area.

While Kentucky's Hispanic population places it in the bottom 10 states in the United States, it has seen significant increases in recent years. Between the 2000 and 2010 Censuses, the state recorded a Hispanic population growth of over 121%, the 4th highest increase in the US during this time period.

Kentucky's population of Native Americans is less than 1% of the total population, but groups including the Ridgetop Shawnee have joined together to raise awareness of the population of Native Americans in the state, which is estimated to be over 20,000.

Race Data via US Census (2016 ACS 1-Year Survey)

Languages Spoken in Kentucky

Language Population Percentage
Pennsylvania Dutch3,4400.08%

This chart shows the top 10 languages that are spoken at home in Kentucky. The data comes from the most recent release of the American Community Survey (ACS).

Kentucky Economy

High school graduate or higher 83.5%
Bachelor's degree or higher 21.8%
With a Disability 12.9%
Persons Without Health Insurance 9.8%
In Civilian Labor Force 59.4%
In Civilian Labor Force (Female) 55.1%
Food Services Sales $7,500,115
Health Care Revenue $26,264,745,000
Manufacturers Shipments $129,284,438,000
Merchant Wholesaler Sales $71,745,899,000
Total Retail Sales $54,869,978,000
Total Retail Sales per Capita $12,526
Mean Travel Time to Work 22.8 minutes
Median Household Income $43,342
Per Capita Income (past 12 months) $23,741
Persons in Poverty 19.1%

This chart shows the employment and labor force participation rates in Kentucky for residents over 16 years of age. The 2015 unemployment rate is 5% and the labor force participation rate is 59.6%.

Kentucky Business

Total Nonemployer Establishments 277,731
All firms 331,546
Men-owned Firms 184,154
Women-owned Firms 106,011
Minority-owned Firms 27,258
Nonminority-owned Firms 296,155
Veternan-owned Firms 33,208
Nonveteran-owned Firms 282,704

Kentucky Housing

Housing Units 1,927,164
Owner Occupied Housing Rate 67.7%
Median Value Owner Occupied Housing Units $121,600
Median Monthly Owner Costs (w/Mortgage) $1,124
Median Monthly Owner Costs (no mortgage) $336
Median Gross Rent $667
Building Permits 10,566
Households 1,702,235
Persons per Household 2.5 persons
Living in Same House 1 Year Ago 84.7%
Language Other than English Spoken at Home 5%
Data Sources
  1. Kentucky State Data Center
  2. US Census State Population Estimates - Most recent state estimates from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program
  3. US Census County Population Estimates - Most recent county estimates from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program
  4. American Community Survey (2009 - 2013)
  5. Census QuickFacts
  6. Historical Populations of States and Counties (1790 - 1990)