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. Kentucky currently has a population growth rate of 0.47%, which ranks 34th among the US states.
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.
Kentucky is fairly densely filled and from a total surface area of 40,409 square miles, (104,659 square kilometers), 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.
The median age in the state of Kentucky is approximately 38.6 years of age, with a slight gender majority of 50.8% females and 49.2% males residing in the state.
In terms of religious preferences over the state, Kentucky comes in with 76% Christian based faiths, 2% non-Christian faiths, and 22% unaffiliated to any faith.
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.
According to the most recent ACS, the racial composition of Kentucky was:
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.
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.
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.
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. See the race chart for more.
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.
Black or African American
Two or more races
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
Average Family Size
Average Household Size
Rate of Home Ownership
Less Than 9th Grade
9th to 12th Grade
High School Graduate
High School Graduation Rate
The highest rate of high school graduation is among white people with a rate of 76.07%.
The highest rate of bachelors degrees is among asian people with a rate of 44.91%.
Other Indo-European Languages
Asian and Pacific Island Languages
94.15% of Kentucky residents speak only English, while 5.85% speak other languages. The non-English language spoken by the largest group is Spanish, which is spoken by 2.74% of the population.
Overall Poverty Rate
Male Poverty Rate
Female Poverty Rate
The race most likely to be in poverty in Kentucky is Other, with 25.25% below the poverty level.
The race least likely to be in poverty in Kentucky is Asian, with 13.41% below the poverty level.
The poverty rate among those that worked full-time for the past 12 months was 2.93%. Among those working part-time, it was 18.86%, and for those that did not work, the poverty rate was 25.83%.
Overall Marriage Rate
Male Marriage Rate
Female Marriage Rate
The age group where males are most likely to be married is Over 65, while the female age group most likely to be married is 45-54.
Second Gulf War
First Gulf War
World War II
Less Than 9th Grade
High School Graduate
Bachelors or Greater
Veteran Poverty Rate
Veteran Disability Rate
Labor Force Participation
Non citizens include legal permanent residents (green card holders), international students, temporary workers, humanitarian migrants, and illegal immigrants.
Born in Kentucky
98.92% of Kentucky residents were born in the United States, with 70.67% having been born in Kentucky. 2.46% of residents are not US citizens. Of those not born in the United States, the largest percentage are from Latin America.