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Kentucky’s rural counties take hit in latest census data

Half of Kentucky’s counties lost population, while 59 counties grew in population between 2015 and 2016, according to new U.S. Census Bureau projections issued Thursday by the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville. Casey County’s population was unchanged.
The Kentucky State Data Center is the state’s clearinghouse for census information. Today’s data show the estimated resident population as of July 1, 2016.
The largest percentage gains were in suburban counties near Louisville and Lexington, with Warren County also showing a significant increase. Large population declines were found mostly in rural eastern and western Kentucky counties, according to the summary report.
Between 2015 and 2016, half of Kentucky’s 120 counties experienced population loss, while 59 counties showed population gain; in Casey County the population was unchanged.
Jefferson, Fayette, and Kenton counties remain Kentucky’s most populous counties, respectively.  A 2015 estimate by the data center projected Kentucky’s overall population at 4,425,092, about a 1 percent increase from the 2010 U.S. Census, which reported a Kentucky population of 4,339,367.
Large population declines were primarily found in rural counties in eastern and western Kentucky. Of the 60 Kentucky counties that lost population between 2015 and 2016, 37 exhibited negative natural increase, where deaths outnumbered births. Only five of the shrinking counties had positive net migration, which was more than offset by negative natural increase.
Of the 60 counties that gained population or remained unchanged between 2015 and 2016, 18 had negative natural increase, but gained population through net migration. Only four of the growing counties had negative net migration. This includes Jefferson County, the state’s most populous, which gained population only through positive natural increase. The small (-28) negative net migration exhibited by Jefferson County was a combination of large positive international net migration (+2,460) and equally large negative net domestic migration (-2,488).
Although the majority of Kentucky’s rural counties lost population between 2015 and 2016, a few counties were exceptions. Marshall, Ohio, Hart, and Garrard counties all gained more than 100 people over the period, the largest population gains among counties not part of a metropolitan area.
Since the 2010 Decennial Census, Scott, Warren, and Shelby counties have been Kentucky’s fastest growing, registering total growth rates of 14.4%, 10.3%, and 10.3%, respectively. Excepting Lee County, which experienced a significant drop in its prison population during this time, Fulton County has been the state’s fastest shrinking county, having lost an estimated 9.3% of its population.
The Census Bureau produces annual estimates of the population for the nation, states, counties, and cities and towns, as well as for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its municipios. Additional information on the Population Estimates Program can be found at
Click here for downloadable files of the 2016 Population Estimates.
Click here for the Kentucky State Data Center.

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