Kentucky Population 2023

4,555,777

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 Area and Population Density

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 largest city in Kentucky by population is Louisville. The largest county in Kentucky by population is Jefferson County.

Kentucky Gender and Religion Statistics

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 Boundary, Census, and Statehood 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 Demographics

According to the most recent ACS, the racial composition of Kentucky was:

  • White: 86.25%
  • Black or African American: 8.1%
  • Two or more races: 2.8%
  • Asian: 1.53%
  • Other race: 1.08%
  • Native American: 0.19%
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.07%

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.

Kentucky Population 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 Population Projections

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.

Kentucky Racial Diversity

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.

Kentucky Population 2023

  • 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" is generally attributed to two sisters (a kindergarten teacher and a pianist/composer) 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 longest known cave system, Mammoth Cave, is the second-oldest tourist attraction in the US.

Kentucky Facts

Population

100K

200K

300K

400K

500K

600K

700K

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 by County

Population by Race

White

Black or African American

Two or more races

Asian

Other race

Native American

Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

Kentucky Population by Race

Kentucky Population Pyramid 2023

Kentucky Median Age

39

Total

37.6

Male

40.4

Female

Kentucky Adults

There are 3,454,333 adults, (729,928 of whom are seniors) in Kentucky.

Kentucky Age Dependency

63.8

Age Dependency Ratio

26.8

Old Age Dependency Ratio

37

Child Dependency Ratio

Kentucky Sex Ratio

Female2,265,43050.77%
Male2,196,52249.23%

Kentucky Population by Age

Kentucky Renter vs Owner Occupied by Household Type

3.04

Average Family Size

2.48

Average Household Size

67.6%

Rate of Home Ownership

Married

Male

Female

NonFamily

owner

renter

Kentucky Households and Families

Male

Female

Less Than 9th Grade

9th to 12th Grade

High School Graduate

Some College

Associates Degree

Bachelors Degree

Graduate Degree

Kentucky Educational Attainment by Sex (over 25)

Kentucky Educational Attainment by Race

High School Graduation Rate

Bachelors Rate

The highest rate of high school graduation is among white people with a rate of 87.7%.

The highest rate of bachelors degrees is among asian people with a rate of 54.18%.

Kentucky Educational Attainment by Race

All

Male

Female

$37,620

Average Earnings

$43,933

Average Male

$31,602

Average Female

Kentucky Earnings by Educational Attainment

Kentucky Language by Age

Only English

Spanish

Other Indo-European Languages

Asian and Pacific Island Languages

Other Languages

Kentucky Language

94.3% of Kentucky residents speak only English, while 5.7% speak other languages. The non-English language spoken by the largest group is Spanish, which is spoken by 2.71% of the population.

Kentucky Language

Kentucky Poverty by Race

rate

16.61%

Overall Poverty Rate

14.97%

Male Poverty Rate

18.17%

Female Poverty Rate

Poverty in Kentucky

The race most likely to be in poverty in Kentucky is Multiple, with 58.03% below the poverty level.

The race least likely to be in poverty in Kentucky is White, with 20.97% below the poverty level.

The poverty rate among those that worked full-time for the past 12 months was 3.04%. Among those working part-time, it was 19.54%, and for those that did not work, the poverty rate was 26.05%.

Kentucky Poverty

Kentucky Poverty Rate by Education

Kentucky Poverty Rate by Employment Status and Sex

Kentucky Income by Household Type

Households

Families

MarriedFamilies

NonFamilies

mean

median

Income by Household Type

Kentucky Marital Status

Married

Widowed

Divorced

Separated

NeverMarried

Marriage Rates

49.4%

Overall Marriage Rate

50.9%

Male Marriage Rate

47.9%

Female Marriage Rate

Kentucky Married by Age and Sex

male

female

Kentucky Marriage

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.

Kentucky Marital Status by Race

Married

Widowed

Divorced

Separated

NeverMarried

Kentucky Marital Status

Second Gulf War

First Gulf War

Vietnam

Korea

World War II

257,452

Number of Veterans

236,584

Male Veterans

20,868

Female Veterans

Kentucky Veterans by War

Kentucky Veterans by Age

count

Kentucky Veterans by Race

Kentucky Veterans by Education

Less Than 9th Grade

High School Graduate

Some College

Bachelors or Greater

8.35%

Veteran Poverty Rate

34.24%

Veteran Disability Rate

Kentucky Veterans by Education

LaborForceParticipation

59.5%

Labor Force Participation

55.9%

Employment Rate

5.4%

Unemployment Rate

Kentucky Employment by Age

LaborForceParticipation

Kentucky Employment by Race

LaborForceParticipation

Kentucky Employment by Education

Origin of Non-Citizens

Europe

Asia

Africa

Oceania

Latin America

North America

Non citizens include legal permanent residents (green card holders), international students, temporary workers, humanitarian migrants, and illegal immigrants.

Origin of Naturalized Citizens

Europe

Asia

Africa

Oceania

Latin America

North America

68.03%

Born in Kentucky

95.11%

Native Born

3.91%

Foreign Born

2.33%

Non Citizen

1.59%

Naturalized

Place of Birth

95.11% of Kentucky residents were born in the United States, with 68.03% having been born in Kentucky. 2.33% of residents are not US citizens. Of those not born in the United States, the largest percentage are from Latin America.

Kentucky Place of Birth

  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)

Sources