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Louisville slips in U.S. ranking, now nation's 28th largest city

By Charlie White Louisville Courier-Journal

Louisville continues to gain population but slipped one spot in the ranking of largest cities last year, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The figures, released Thursday, show Louisville's population grew by just over 0.8 percent in 2013.

Roughly 90 percent of all growth in Jefferson County from April 2010 to July 2013 was due to the boom in foreign-born population, said Ron Crouch, director of research and statistics for the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

And Louisville's 6,717 migrants - 5,991 international and 726 domestic - accounted for nearly half of Kentucky's overall net migration of 14,367.

Even with the growth in population, the city slipped one spot to 28th largest city with a total population of 609,893 residents from the 2012 census estimate, ranking just behind Oklahoma City, according to census data.

But the population estimate for Louisville - which amounts to an increase of 4,903 in 2013 - does not account for the 82 suburban cities within Jefferson County, which would push the population up 146,939 to 756,832. That would make it the 18th largest American city, surpassing Detroit and others, said Ben Bolender, a Census Bureau demographer.

Following the January 2003 merger of Louisville and Jefferson County governments, city leaders touted it as the 16th largest city, based on the combined population of the merged city and its then 83 small cities, such as Shively, Anchorage and West Buechel.

Bolender said Louisville is one of eight cities with merged governments. Another one is Indianapolis, which ranked 12th, but would also move up the list if suburban towns like Speedway were counted.

The 2013 Census Bureau estimates examined the 743 incorporated areas with 50,000 or more residents.

"The fastest-growing areas are pretty much in the South and West. The top 15 doesn't look much different than it did last year," Bolender said.

New York City, by far the nation's largest city, grew by 0.7 percent to 8,405,837 residents.

America remains filled with small towns and other municipalities. Of the 19,508 incorporated places in the United States, about 76 percent, or 14,824, had fewer than 5,000 people, with less than 4 percent, or 743, having populations of 50,000 or more in 2013.

Noticeably absent from the top of the list are some cities with large metropolitan area populations, like Atlanta, which ranked 40th with 447,841 residents, and Cincinnati, which came in 65th with 297,517 residents.

The 2010 census showed Louisville's 13-county metropolitan area grew by 10.2 percent to 1.24 million in 2010 from 1,121,109 in 2000. The Louisville MSA includes Jefferson, Oldham, Bullitt, Henry, Meade, Nelson, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble counties in Kentucky and Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Washington in Indiana.

Bolender said the goal of the full census, taken every 10 years, is to count everybody through questionnaires they fill out. The numbers are refined through annual estimates that are obtained from documents such as birth and death records and other information.

"The (Baby) Boomers are about to get old and start dying in large numbers," said Crouch. "Right now, we don't have a lot of people in their 70s and 80s because they were born during the Great Depression."

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