Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 4,380,415
Population (2000 CB est.) 4,041,769
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 137,411
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 80,271
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 3.2 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 1.9%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 49,981
Share Naturalized (2012) 35.6 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 46,518
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 23,701
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 50,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $279,567,052
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 5,282,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Kentucky in 2012 was 4,380,415 residents.

Between 2000 (population 4,041,769) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 27,645 residents. That was an annual average change of 0.7 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 3,685,298) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 35,647 residents. The annual average rate of change was 0.9 percent compared to the national rate of change of 1.2 percent.

Foreign-Born Population

According to the Census Bureau the foreign-born population of Kentucky was about 137,411 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 3.2 percent. The chart above shows the long-term change in the state's foreign-born population based on Census Bureau data.

Foreign-Born Change

Between 2000 and 2012 the Census Bureau estimate indicates an average annual rate of change in the foreign-born population of about 5,348 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 27,645  people. That is a 18.4  percent share of the state's population change (not including the children born in the United States to illegal aliens). The foreign-born population grew by 71.2 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Immigration also contributes to population growth through the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Nationally the share of births to the foreign-born is about double their share of the population. A 6.4 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 3,622 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 8,970 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 30.8 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 54.6 percent of Kentucky's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 58.8 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Kentucky's immigrant population may be seen in data on the share of the population over five years of age that speaks a language other than English at home. Between 2000 and 2012, the share of non-English speakers changed from 3.9 percent to 4.9 percent. In 2000, 39.7 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 39.6 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 51.6 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 59.4 percent of those who spoke English less than very well.

The chart above shows the regional composition of the state's foreign-born population and how it has changed from between 2000 and 2012.


Census Bureau data in 2012 indicate that 49,981 residents of Kentucky, or 35.6 percent of the foreign-born population in Kentucky, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 27,569 residents, or 34.3 percent, in 2000.

Nationally, 40.3 percent of the foreign-born population was naturalized in 2000, and 45.8 percent in 2012.

Net International Migration (NIM)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Census Bureau estimated that between 2000 and 2012, the change in Kentucky's population resulting from net international migration has been about 5,040 people. It was 21.0 percent of total change (not including the children born to the immigrants after their arrival in the United States). 1   The remainder was due to net domestic migration and natural change (births minus deaths).


  1. A negative percentage results when there was an overall population decrease. A percentage greater than 100 percent results when domestic migration is negative, i.e, a net loss from interstate migration.

Immigrant Admissions

Recent "green card" recipients who intend to reside in Kentucky were 568 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 783 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 5,230 persons. Immigrant admissions data are from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

The chart above shows recent immigrant admissions and the cumulative amount of immigrant admissions since FY'65. The cumulative total of immigrant admissions to Kentucky between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 106,633 persons.

The data for fiscal years 1989-91 were artificially raised by the inclusion of former illegal aliens who were amnestied in 1986. According to INS data (1991) the number of amnesty applicants from Kentucky was 655 (381 pre-1982 residents and 274 agricultural workers). These data were published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and reported in "Report on the Legalized Alien Population," March 1992.

Admissions by Nationality: FY'96 - FY'05

The table below furnishes INS data by nationality on the immigrants who were admitted for residence in Kentucky between 1996 and 2005.

The INS data are for nationals of the countries with the largest number of immigrants admitted or adjusted to legal residence each year since 1996. The absence of data means that the total number of admissions to the United States by nationals of that country was not enough to merit detailed reporting in that year.

The Department of Homeland Security website has detailed data on immigrant admissions since FY'03 by year and by source country and intended state of residence. (See then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


Kentucky has received 23,701 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 1,452 refugees in fiscal year 2012. The chart above shows the annual admissions over the last ten years and the cumulative total of those admissions using data complied by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government program that distributes new refugees among the states is the only immigration program that provides state governments the opportunity to participate in deciding how many newcomers will come to that state each year.

Illegal Aliens

Kentucky Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $124.30 44.5%
LEP educ. $25.00 8.9%
Medicaid+ $18.50 6.6%
SCHIP $5.50 2.0%
Justice $22.10 7.9%
Welfare+ $30.20 10.8%
General $54.00 19.3%
Total $279.60  
Tax receipts $17.40  
Net Cost $262.20  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Kentucky as of 2010 was about 50,000 persons. This is part of an overall estimate of the U.S. illegal alien population of about 11,900,000 persons.

DHS Estimate - The current estimate by DHS of the illegal alien population in Kentucky was n/a in 2012. The DHS estimate is available for only the 10 states with the largest illegal alien populations. The DHS estimate of the national illegal alien population in 2012 was 11,430,000.

Other Estimates - The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the illegal alien population of the state at 80,000 as of 2010.

Fiscal Cost of Illegal Aliens

FAIR's most recent estimate of the cost outlays due to illegal immigration and tax receipts from illegal aliens in Kentucky are as shown on the right:

Limited English Proficiency Students

Data are not available nationally on immigrant students (either legally or illegally resident in the United States) who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools (K-12). However, a large majority of these students enrolled in Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learning (LEP/ELL) instruction programs may be assumed to be children of either legal or illegal immigrants with a predominance of children of illegal aliens.

In Kentucky, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 15,895) was 327.9 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 104.9 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Kentucky's population in 2050 likely would be between 5,218,000 million and 5,282,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (4,927,000) if immigration were reduced to a level where it balanced the number of U.S. residents leaving to reside outside of the United states, i.e., zero-net immigration. See "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050: Four Immigration Scenarios," FAIR 2006.

Foreign Students

Data compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE) record the number of foreign students attending post-secondary school in Kentucky as 6,364 in 2013.

The chart above illustrates the change in the number of foreign students attending school in Kentucky since 1997.

For information on foreign student issues see: Foreign Students in the United States.

Immigration Impact

Population Profile

While Kentucky hasn't yet suffered the explosive population growth that other parts of the South have, demographic indicators show that it's headed in that direction. Dramatic population growth projections in Fayette and twelve surrounding counties — 45 percent by 2030, according to a state demographer—have local leaders concerned that the region can't handle the influx. Anderson, Garrad, and Scott counties are expected to more than double their populations by 2030. No one knows how the state will deliver water to the newcomers, and no major new roads have been planned to accommodate the population increase.1

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

Schools: Public school enrollment in Kentucky increased by about 11,000 students between 1998 and 2008. Over the same period, the number of students per teacher decreased from 16.4 to 15.7, compared to a nationwide decrease of 1.4 students per teacher. Kentucky now ranks 39th nationwide in student-teacher ratio, dropping nine spots between 1998 and 2008.2

In Oldham County, where population increased 39 percent in the last decade, school officials are worried that already crowded classrooms won't be able to handle the county's ballooning population. The school district is already at 109 percent capacity, and the school superintendent has asked the planning commission to temporarily stop approving new residential developments.3 At South Oldham High School, which is 30 percent over capacity, administrators have had to increase the amount of time between periods, because the hallways are so packed that students were unable to make their way to class on time.4

Poverty: Kentucky’s immigrants are almost twice as likely to be in poverty as their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 19.3 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 11.6 percent of native households. An additional 10.5 percent of the foreign-born and 10.3 percent of native households were not in poverty but had incomes less than 1.5 times the poverty level.5 Kentucky is one of three states in which native children are more likely to be poor than immigrant children. 21.0 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 21.1 percent of native children.6

Traffic: Traffic on Kentucky highways increased by 36 percent between 1990 and 2008.. In 2010, over half (57%) of the state’s major urban highways were considered "congested" by The Road Information Project (TRIP).7 As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Kentucky residents increased 14 percent during the 1990s, to 24 minutes in 2000.8

The typical Louisville commuter spent 38 extra hours in traffic due to congestion in 2007, resulting in 26 wasted gallons of fuel per commuter and an estimated fuel and time cost of $409 million. In Cincinnati, whose metro area includes part of Kentucky, each commuter waited about 25 hours.9 About 11 percent of Kentucky commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.10

One in five (20%) Kentucky roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and nearly one third (32%) of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Motorists pay the price of neglected road maintenance. In Kentucky, road conditions cost the typical driver and estimated $185 per year in extra repairs and operating costs, a $543 million total statewide.11

Disappearing Open Space: The amount of developed land in Kentucky increased by 969,100 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 39,010 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.12

A study of urban sprawl between 1970 and 1990 that calculated the impact of population increase and per capita land use found that 39.4 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the Wichita metropolitan area, and 35.8 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase.13

Air Quality: In 2010, the American Lung Association gave 17 of the 26 Kentucky counties included in its assessment an "F" for frequency of high ozone levels. Five more were graded "D."14

Crowded Housing:An estimated 23,638 of Kentucky’s housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 1.4 percent of the state’s housing units. In addition, 4,351 units were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.15 Nationally, crowded housing rates are driven upward by immigration, where 27 percent of children in immigrant families live in crowded housing compared to 9 percent of children with native-born parents. In Kentucky, the shares are 16 percent of children in immigrant families are in crowded housing compared to 7 percent of those in native-headed households.16

Solid Waste: Kentucky generates 1.34 tons of solid waste per capita each year.17


  1. "Projected Growth in Central Kentucky Concerns Leaders," Associated Press, September 30, 2002.
  2. NEA, "Rankings and Estimates," 1999 and 2009 editions.
  3. "School Officials Want Residential Growth Slowed," Associated Press, November 16, 2001.
  4. Mary Meehan, "South Oldham High Hundreds of Students Over Its Limit," Herald-Leader, February 12, 2002.
  5. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  6. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.
  7. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Kentucky’s Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  8. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000," Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990," 1990 Census, U.S. Census Bureau
  9. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009."
  10. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  11. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Kentucky’s Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  12. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  13. Beck, Roy and Leon Kolankiewicz, "Weighing Sprawl Factors in Large U.S. Cities," NumbersUSA, March 2001.
  14. American Lung Association, "State of the Air 2010."
  15. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  16. Kids Count Data Center, which used 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  17. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.


Other Resources  

State Local Reform Organizations

State Representatives Voting Record


Updated December 2011