KY Cities Outpace State Population Growth

Kentucky cities continued over the past decade to grow more quickly than unincorporated areas in the commonwealth, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau Thursday. City residents now account for 56% of the state’s total population, which continues the recent trend toward more urbanization.

Kentucky cities collectively increased their population by 7.1% from 2010 to 2020. The state grew by 3.8%, while the population living in unincorporated areas of the state declined by 0.04%. Cities added over 167,000 people, which represents slightly more than the total new residents added statewide.

“The new census data show just how important cities are to this state’s economy and population growth,” said KLC Executive Director/CEO J.D. Chaney. “To continue these positive trends, Kentucky’s cities need legislative action to help them invest more in infrastructure, public safety, quality of life, and economic development.”

The five largest cities – Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Owensboro, and Covington – remain unchanged in the population rankings. Those cities averaged a growth rate of over 9%, with Bowling Green growing by 24.5% over the past decade. The City of Hopkinsville lost nearly 400 people, dropping it four spots from its previous rank of sixth to 10th. The City of Georgetown added nearly 8,000 new residents, moving it up from ninth to claim sixth place.

The small city of Booneville grew by over 107%, going from 81 to 168 residents. Mount Washington outpaced all other cities with a population of at least 1,000 by nearly doubling its 2010 census population to 18,090 residents.

Negative population trends continue in eastern and much of western Kentucky, while central Kentucky – particularly the “golden triangle” area between Louisville, Lexington, and northern Kentucky – remains one of the highest growth areas.

Thursday’s release included data on population, race, and housing, which states and localities can use for redistricting purposes. The Census Bureau will release additional information and easier-to-use data tables this fall.

Go here to view the 2020 decennial census populations for Kentucky cities.


Top 15 Most Populous Kentucky Cities


City 2010 Census Population 2020 Census Population Percent Change
Louisville* 597,337 633,045 5.98%
Lexington 295,803 322,570 9.05%
Bowling Green 58,067 72,294 24.50%
Owensboro 57,265 60,183 5.10%
Covington 40,640 40,961 0.79%
Georgetown 29,098 37,086 27.45%
Richmond 31,364 34,585 10.27%
Florence 29,951 31,946 6.66%
Elizabethtown 28,531 31,394 10.03%
Hopkinsville 31,577 31,180 -1.26%
Nicholasville 28,015 31,093 10.99%
Independence 24,757 28,676 15.83%
Frankfort 25,527 28,602 12.05%
Jeffersontown 26,595 28,474 7.07%
Henderson 28,757 27,981 -2.70%
* Louisville’s population excludes the other suburban cities within Jefferson County.