Kentucky Population 2017

4,450,042

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 4,425,092.

Kentucky's estimated population of 4.4 million in 2016 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 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 State Rank

Year Pop % Change
2020 4,487,467 0.28%
2019 4,474,992 0.28%
2018 4,462,517 0.28%
2017 4,450,042 0.28%
2016 4,437,567 0.28%
2015 4,425,092 0.28%
2014 4,412,617 0.32%
2013 4,398,500 0.36%
2012 4,382,667 0.34%
2011 4,367,882 0.66%
2010 4,339,367 0.71%
2000 4,041,769 0.93%
1990 3,685,296 0.07%
1980 3,660,777 1.30%
1970 3,218,706 0.58%
1960 3,038,156 0.31%
1950 2,944,806 0.34%
1940 2,845,627 0.85%
1930 2,614,589 0.79%
1920 2,416,630 0.54%
1910 2,289,905 0.65%
1900 2,147,174 1.45%
1890 1,858,635 1.21%
1880 1,648,690 2.24%
1870 1,321,011 1.35%
1860 1,155,684 1.64%
1850 982,405 2.34%
1840 779,828 1.26%
1830 687,917 2.00%
1820 564,317 3.33%
1810 406,511 6.29%
1800 220,959 11.61%
1790 73,677 0.00%

Kentucky Facts

Kentucky Population in 2017 Source: 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

  • Population
  • Density
  • Growth Since 2010
  • State Rank
  • % of State

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.

Population Pyramid

To compare Kentucky to other states, click here.

Population by Race

Race Population Percentage

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.

Languages Spoken in Kentucky

Language Population Percentage
Population 5 years and over 4,082,467 100
English 3,916,942 95.95
Spanish 104,470 2.56
German 13,015 0.32
French 7,995 0.2
Chinese 6,780 0.17
Serbocroatian 4,825 0.12
Pennsylvania Dutch 3,440 0.08
Cushite 2,005 0.05
Nepali 1,855 0.05

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

Kentucky Economy

HighSchoolGraduate 84
BachelorsDegree 22
Disabled 13
NoHealthInsurance 10
LaborForceTotal 59
LaborForceFemale 55
FoodServiceSales 7,500,115
HealthCareRevenue 26,264,745
ManufacturerShipments 129,284,438
MerchantWholesalesSales 71,745,899
RetailSales 54,869,978
RetailSalesPerCapita 12,526
MeanWorkTravelTime 23
MedianHouseholdIncome 43,342
PerCapitaIncome 23,741
PovertyPercentage 19

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

NonemployerEstablishments 277,731
AllFirms 331,546
MenOwnedFirms 184,154
WomenOwnedFirms 106,011
MinorityOwnedFirms 27,258
NonminorityOwnedFirms 296,155
VeteranOwnedFirms 33,208
NonveteranOwn 282,704

Kentucky Housing

HousingUnits 1,957,037
HousingUnits 1,927,164
OwnerOccupiedRate 68
OwnerOccupiedMedianValue 121,600
MonthlyOwnerCostsMortage 1,124
MonthlyOwnerCostsNoMortage 336
MedianGrossRent 667
BuildingPermits 10,566
Households 1,702,235
PersonsPerHousehold 3
SameHouseOneYearAgo 85
NonEnglishAtHome 5
Data Sources
  1. Census State Population Estimates - Most recent state estimates from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program - released 6/23/2016
  2. Census County Population Estimates - Most recent county estimates from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program - released 6/23/2016
  3. American Community Survey (2009 - 2013)
  4. Census QuickFacts