The state of Rhode Island is the smallest in the United States as far as surface area is concerned, but it has a healthy population by comparison. The last official US Census in 2010 showed that there were 1,052,567 people living in the state, and that made Rhode Island larger than seven other states across the country.
Read on to find out more about the population of Rhode Island, or click through to our overview article about the population of the United States to find out more about the demographics of the country as a whole.
The national 2010 Census showed Rhode Island's population was 1,052,567. The state's history has been filled with small falls alongside increases, although it has gone up steadily at every official census.
Rhode Island has just 1,545 square miles, and the Rhode Island population figures mean that there are 1,018.1 people on average for every square mile. The state is second only to New Jersey in terms of density.
Rhode Island has a corridor of the population from the large Providence area to the northwest, following Blackstone River to Woonsocket. The state has just five counties, but no county government. Only the city of Providence has a population over 100,000, with an estimated 179,000 residents. Following in size are Warwick (81,699), Cranston (81,076), Pawtucket (71,591) and East Providence (47,408). The two most populated counties in Rhode Island are Providence and Kent with respective populations of 637,357 and 163,760.
The median age across the population of this state is approximately 39.9 years of age. The ratio of females to males in the state is approximately 51.5% females to 48.5% males.
In terms of most preferred religions across the population of Rhode Island, 75% of the population identify with a Christian based faith, while 5% are affiliated with non-Christian based faiths, and 20% are unaffiliated with any religion in particular or do not practice any religion at all.
Rhode Island was one of the 13 original States and has had nearly its present boundaries since Colonial times. However, a long-standing boundary dispute with Massachusetts involved a sizable exchange of territory when finally settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1862. Census coverage included all of Rhode Island from 1790 on.
According to the most recent ACS, the racial composition of Rhode Island was:
Although there has always been a healthy growth as far as the population of Rhode Island is concerned, it has been steady rather than spectacular.
In 1790, there were 68,825 people living in the state, and ten years later that figure had grown by just 0.4% to 69,122. The decade with the largest increase came in 1850 when the Rhode Island population was measured at 147,545, a 35.6% rise on numbers from ten years earlier.
In its early days, Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade, which eventually moved into the Industrial Revolution and fishing. Much of Rhode Island's growth and economy is today based on healthcare, education and some manufacturing.
Rhode Island in the recent past has experienced a small decrease in population, which may continue. This is because its natural growth rate has declined as its population ages. Current estimates show there will be some growth between 2020 and 2035, but it will only be after some population decline.
Net migration has always contributed healthily to Rhode Island population statistics, although time will tell if this continues, and if it can make up for a population that is quickly aging.
The population of Rhode Island in 2016 is an interesting one to monitor because there are only very small fluctuations in numbers and there have even been some falls recorded throughout the State’s history.
With such a densely populated area, Rhode Island may have little capacity for further growth and the 2020 statistics could be very revealing. It's estimated now that Rhode Island's population will reach just 1.07 million in 2035, but then start to decline again by 2040.
The largest ancestry groups in Rhode Island include: Irish (19%), Italian (18.7%), English (11.7%), French (11,3%), Portuguese (9.6%), German (5.6%), French Canadian (4.7%), Polish (4.1%), Dominican (4.02%), Puerto Rican (3.14%) and Chinese (2.2%). The state has the highest percentage of people of Portuguese ancestry than any other state, as well as a high percentage of Liberian immigrants, accounting for 15,000 residents.
When compared to the diversity other states, Rhode Island is ranked 13th in terms of the percentage of its Hispanic and Latino residents. Breaking this down further, Rhode Island is also ranked 6th in the nation for its percentage of Mexican American residents and 6th in Puerto Rican residents.
Rhode Island is ranked 20th out of all 50 states as far as percentage of Asian American inhabitants compared to total population of the state. In terms of pure numbers, the state is ranked 38th for its number of Asian Americans. With just 0.6% of its population made up of Native American residents, Rhode Island's Native American population falls below the national average.
As the smallest state in the US, it comes as no surprise that the state of Rhode Island has just five counties, making it easy to evaluate the population growth patterns by county. When examining data from the 2010 population compared to estimates taken in 2015 by the Census Bureau, this information shows that many of Rhode Island's counties saw declines in population. However, the northernmost county of Providence did see a gain in population during the 5-year period, posting a gain of 1.02%.
However, the remaining four counties saw population losses. The biggest happened in Bristol County, with a loss of 1.56% of its population. This was followed by Newport County at 0.86%, Kent County at 0.75%, and Washington County with 0.45%.
Two or more races
Black or African American
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 islander people with a rate of 81.63%.
The highest rate of bachelors degrees is among asian people with a rate of 44.25%.
Other Indo-European Languages
Asian and Pacific Island Languages
77.6% of Rhode Island residents speak only English, while 22.4% speak other languages. The non-English language spoken by the largest group is Spanish, which is spoken by 12.68% of the population.
Overall Poverty Rate
Male Poverty Rate
Female Poverty Rate
The race most likely to be in poverty in Rhode Island is Native, with 26.01% below the poverty level.
The race least likely to be in poverty in Rhode Island is White, with 7.58% below the poverty level.
The poverty rate among those that worked full-time for the past 12 months was 1.42%. Among those working part-time, it was 12.48%, and for those that did not work, the poverty rate was 21.42%.
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 Rhode Island
89.15% of Rhode Island residents were born in the United States, with 58.19% having been born in Rhode Island. 6.44% of residents are not US citizens. Of those not born in the United States, the largest percentage are from Latin America.