New data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis and U.S. Census Bureau shows a high correlation between interstate access and the effects of international and domestic migrations on population growth. 

Metropolitan areas are seeing more growth while rural areas are steadily losing population. According to the census, Kentucky had a 2 percent population increase or 85,743 from 2010 to 2015 with 2.6 percent increase in the metropolitan statistical area of Warren, Butler, Edmonson and Allen counties, 1.6 percent increase in micropolitan statistical areas of Barren and Metcalfe and a 1.7 decrease in rural counties such as Monroe and Muhlenberg counties, according to Ron Crouch, director of research and statistics in the Office of Employment and Training.

The charts reflect how Kentucky's 15 districts and 120 counties are doing economically from the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis and U.S. Census Bureau population estimates from 2000 to 2010 and 2010 to 2015, which both show dramatic population changes occurring both for the United States and Kentucky with geographic detail including migration, natural increase and natural decrease numbers, according to Crouch.

"I guess the reality we're going to have to look at is we're seeing that more and more of the Kentucky population is in the urban areas versus the rural areas," he said. "It's difficult for an area to do well economically when they're losing population." 

Western Kentucky University Associate Economics Professor Brian Strow said the general shift throughout American history has been population moving to already populated metro areas and we should just embrace the change.

"Cities historically are your engines of economic growth. Rather than fight against the economic winds of change, what we need to do is embrace the movement to urban areas and focus on improving those assets to provide jobs to as many Kentuckians as possible," Strow said.

The Barren River region is showing an overall population increase of 11,757 or 4.1 percent, with Warren County showing an increase of 9,070 or 8 percent since 2010. Allen County is showing a 3.4 percent increase, Butler County has a 2 percent increase, Edmonson County has a 1.3 decrease, Barren County has a 3.3 percent increase, Hart County has a 1.4 percent increase, Logan County has a 0.3 percent increase, Monroe County has a 2.7 percent decrease, Metcalfe County has a 1.9 percent decrease and Simpson County has a 3.9 percent increase.

Crouch said there is going to be an acceleration of rural areas losing population because birth rates are down and death rates will increase as the baby boomers continue to age. The natural increase of population was 4,588 in the Barren River region with the remaining 7,208 coming from a combination of international and domestic migration.

"There's a big (group of) anti-immigration out there, but the reality is with the birth rates going down and the death rates about to increase, immigration is major for the area to grow and stabilize," Crouch said. 

International Center of Kentucky executive director Albert Mbanfu said the fact that immigration is vital in any economy cannot be ignored. He said that around Bowling Green there are immigrants and refugees that own restaurants, opened car dealerships, are seamstresses and have open their own workshops and many of them have bought their homes.

"Many immigrants have come to work as soon as three to four months on arrival and that helps Bowling Green's economy," Mbanfu said. "Because they work, they pay taxes as well, thereby contributing to the public revenue."

From April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015, international migration contributed to the population change in Warren County by 2,502 of the total net migration of 5,801. Allen County had 42 international migrations out of 477, Barren County had 176 of 1,078, Butler County had 131 international migrations, but declined by 18 in domestic migrations, which left a total of 113 migrations. 

Edmonson County had a decrease in population, but still had four international migrations with a domestic decline of 42. Hart County had 17 international migrations out of 68, Logan County had 14 international migrations, but domestic migrations declined by 353. The same goes for Metcalfe County that had nine international migrations, but had a 232 decline in domestic and Monroe County that had 44 international and a 216 decline in domestic. Simpson County had 13 international migrations out of 438.

Based on this information, it seems that international and domestic migrations is a significant factor in the population growth of an area. Overall, Kentucky had 34,455 international migrations since 2010 and 12,292 people leaving the state, which leaves a total of 22,163 migrations that contributed to the total population growth of 85,743 in the state over the last five years.

"Immigration is the fabric of the very existence of the United States of America," Mbanfu said. "It's a rich tradition that we cannot afford to lose."

— Follow faith/general assignments reporter Simone C. Payne on Twitter @_SimonePayne or visit bgdailynews.com.

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