Appalachian counties suffer biggest population losses, Census finds
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Counties surrounding Kentucky’s largest cities registered big population gains in the past decade while large swaths of rural counties suffered losses, with the steepest declines in Appalachia, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Kentucky’s overall population increased 3.8% to about 4.5 million people between 2010 and 2020.
Metropolitan counties, along with other areas in the state’s midsection, showed strong growth. Kentucky lawmakers will use the population trends when redrawing voting districts.
Scott County, just north of Lexington, had the state’s biggest population growth at 21.2%, the figures showed. Warren County, in south-central Kentucky, was next at 18.2%, followed by Boone County at 14.4% in the densely populated northern tip of Kentucky just south of Cincinnati.
Four counties ringing Louisville were in the top 10 for statewide population gains. Shelby and Spencer counties each grew by 14.2%, Oldham County by 12.1% and Bullitt County by 10.6%.
Madison County, south of Lexington, had population growth of 11.8%.
Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, grew by 5.7% - ranking 26th statewide - for a total population of 782,969. Fayette County, which spans Lexington, has the second-highest population at 322,570, up 9%. Fayette ranked 13th in population growth among the state’s 120 counties.
Bell County, along the Virginia border in southeastern Kentucky, had the biggest population decline at 16%. Owsley County, also in eastern Kentucky, was next with a 14.8% drop.
Other Appalachian counties with double-digit population losses included Wolfe at 10.8%, Letcher at 12.1%, Martin and Magoffin at 12.7% each and Knott at 12.8%. Pike County had a 9.8% decline.
The Appalachian region was hit hard by the decline of the coal industry during the decade.
Numerous counties in rural western Kentucky also suffered population losses.
But some rural counties bucked the trend to post strong population gains.
Simpson County, along the Tennessee border, had a 13.1% population increase - sixth best in the state. Simpson also borders Warren County, and the two counties formed a high-growth corridor.
In eastern Kentucky, Bath County ranked 11th best statewide with a 10% increase.
Overall, 57 Kentucky counties posted population gains. Kenton is the third-most populous Kentucky county, followed by Boone, Warren, Hardin, Daviess, Campbell, Madison and Bullitt.
The release of the redistricting data culled from the 2020 census is coming more than four months later than expected due to delays caused by the pandemic. Robertson County had the smallest population at 2,193.
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