Mapping Migration in Kentucky

Visualization Regional Migration Trends


In the last week, I’ve provided in-depth assessments of migration in Greater Cincinnati, Greater Louisville, Inner Appalachia, the Bluegrass, and the Western Pennyroyal. Over the course of these regional analyses, I’ve shown how migration in Kentucky is impacted by factors as diverse as bridge construction, military bases, university recruitment, farm profits, and housing costs. I’ll continue this series and provide analyses of the remaining regions as well, but, for today’s post, I want to take a step back and look at Kentucky more broadly. I did this once before, taking a first look at migration in Kentucky generally. Now, I want to return to the wider question of migration in Kentucky from a more systematic perspective.


Total Domestic Migration: The Bluegrass and Western Pennyroyal Lead the Way
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Within Kentucky, not every region attracts migrants at the same rate. The Western Pennyroyal and the Bluegrass stand out as major migrant-gainers, while the Eastern Pennyroyal and Outer Appalachia stand out as migrant-losers. I’ve ventured explanations for many of these trends, and will get to those I’ve missed at a later date. But here, it’s sufficient just to point out that there are major trends within the state.


In-State Migration: The Bluegrass Leads by a Mile
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For in-state migration, the Bluegrass dominates the rest of the state, with its only competition in the Western Pennyroyal again. But unlike total migration, which is fairly moderate in most regions, in-state migration shows a great deal of variation: the Eastern Pennyroyal, Outer Appalachia, Greater Cincinnati, and the Western Coal Fields all have substantial out-migration.


Interstate Migration: Positive Almost Everywhere, Best in the Western Pennyroyal
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Almost every region of Kentucky succeeds in attracting interstate migration. The Western Pennyroyal gets the most, for reasons I’ve previously outlined, but what is most notable is how every region (except the Eastern Pennyroyal) succeeds in drawing migrants from the rest of the nation.


International Migration: Louisville, the Bluegrass, and the Western Pennyroyal Lead the Way

International migration in Kentucky is concentrated in urban areas, university towns, and military bases. Every region has at least slightly positive international migration, but Louisville, the Bluegrass, and the Western Pennyroyal attract the most. In Louisville and the Bluegrass, this is a phenomenon related to urban centers and universities. In the Western Pennyroyal, this international migration is mostly a reflection of military mobilization, and also some refugee relocation.


Migration Volume: The Western Pennyroyal Dominates

Another important statistic for migration is the volume of migration or what is sometimes called churn. This statistic shows how mobile a given region’s population is. The Western Pennyroyal dominates this measure thanks to military bases, suburbanization, and recruitment for higher education. The Bluegrass comes in second, while the Western Coal Fields and Inner Appalachia come in last. For perspective, the volume of migration in the Western Pennyroyal is approximately double that in the Western Coal Fields.


Kentucky, like every state, has lots of internal diversity. From the highlands of Appalachia to the hills of the Pennyroyal and the horse farms of the Bluegrass, to the urban centers of Louisville, Lexington, and Cincinnati, the state’s various regions show different migration patterns. Some, like the Bluegrass and the Western Pennyroyal, seem to be near the top on every measure. Others, like Outer Appalachia or the Eastern Pennyroyal, don’t do so well.

By putting regional experiences in perspective, local policymakers can better identify their strengths and weaknesses.

See the previous post!

Start the series from the beginning!

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Follow me on Twitter. Follow my Medium Collection at In a State of Migration. I’m a grad student in International Trade and Investment Policy at the George Washington University’s Elliott School. I like to write and tweet about migration, airplanes, trade, space, and other new and interesting research. Cover photo from Unsplash.

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