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Why Is Everyone Moving Out of Louisville?

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Louisville, Kentucky, the state’s largest city, located on the Ohio River, along the Indiana border and famous for its historic Kentucky Derby. 

Despite recording a consistent net increase in the Louisville metro area population, ranging between 0.81 – 0.9% since 2020, there are murmurs that everyone is leaving Louisville.

Interestingly, statistics paint a different picture. According to migration data, 24% of homebuyers are looking to relocate to Louisville. However, while the city wasn’t experiencing a net outflow in 2020, Louisville’s population change from 2020 to 2023 hit a negative 1.4%. 

Between 2020 and 2023, the city’s population dropped from 631,976 to 622,981 residents. Evidently, there isn’t a mass exodus as portrayed; however, moving out of Louisville is still a trend. 

Here are a few reasons why:

Economic Factors

Is the grass greener on the other side? 

Not only do the residents seem to think it’s all rosy elsewhere, companies do as well. Over the past few years, many companies, including Humana (a major employer in the city), have left downtown Louisville. 

A few more have either downsized or cited globalization as a reason for their departure, citing a need to reduce operating costs. 

This has created a peculiar situation for the locals and a few of the movers Louisville offers, who are constantly booked—residents who can no longer find gainful employment like before begin to move out.

  • Job market challenges

Louisville’s economy has faced significant shifts, particularly in its job market. Historically dependent on manufacturing, the city has struggled to transition to a diversified economy. The decline in manufacturing jobs has left many residents seeking employment elsewhere. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Louisville’s unemployment rate in early 2024 was 4.3%, higher than the national average of 3.9%. This discrepancy indicates a tougher job market in Louisville compared to other regions, pushing residents to relocate for better opportunities.

  • Income disparity

The median household income in Louisville was $63,114, significantly lower than the national median of $74,580. Also reflecting on the economic strain is the cost of living, which is higher than the national average for utilities, food, and transportation. 

Moreover, the flat state individual income tax rate of 4.5% is unfavorable to low-income earners. The resulting economic stagnation has compelled many residents to move from Louisville, KY, to cities with better income prospects and lower living costs. 

Louisville AverageNational Average
Unemployment Rate4.3%3.9%
Median Household Income$63,114$74,580
Individuals Below Poverty Level15.6%11.5%

Social Factors

The city of Louisville, Jefferson County, has faced significant challenges on the social scene. It has led to many people moving out of Louisville for better alternatives.

  • Education system concerns and a struggling public school

Served by the Jefferson County School District, education quality in Louisville has hit the rocks. Better than only 19% of all Kentucky school districts, Louisville’s public schools have faced criticism for underperformance. 

The Kentucky Department of Education 2023 report card revealed that only 29% of economically disadvantaged elementary school students in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) were proficient in reading. A lower 22% performed at or above average in math. 

Such statistics are concerning for parents prioritizing education. In the end, it’s a critical factor for families, prompting them to seek better schooling options elsewhere.

Data source: NeighborhoodScout

  • A surge in crime rates

There is no gainsaying that Louisville has a crime problem. The consistently higher-than-average crime rate sure rings alarm bells for residents who no longer feel safe in their homes. 

While there is some degree of crime in every city, especially large ones, the crippling downside to crime in Louisville is that previously safe neighborhoods are no longer as secure as they used to be. 

Neighborhoods like Deer Park and Old Louisville are beginning to report the eruption of pockets of crimes here and there. In 2020, the average violent crime committed in Louisville was 473.4 per 100,000 people. Also, the number of homicides in this city runs in three-digit figures. 

In 2023, the Louisville metro police reported there were 150 homicides. However, while this was less than the number in 2022, it is a significant spike compared to the national average. 

The rise in crime rates makes Louisville safer than only 7% of all U.S. cities—and there are over 500 cities! Unfortunately, the reality of this creates an unsafe environment, leading residents to move to safer areas.

Crime Rate(per 1000 residents)Louisville MedianState MedianNational Median
Violent Crime7.512.144.0
Property Crime29.1714.4920.0
  • Seeking greater diversity

Kentucky is largely a conservative state, but Louisville is a somewhat liberal city. This unique situation creates a political environment charged with a lot of antagonism. 

To cap this, approximately 63% of Louisville residents are White, 23.5% are Black, and Latinos make up 6.7% of its ethnic diversity. For many residents in the minority groups, this raises the question, “Is Louisville a good place to live?” 

The cultural diversity typical of a big city such as Louisville seems lacking. Although there is a lot of talk about inclusivity, some individuals feel there are limitations to the sense of community in the city.

Environmental and Quality of Life Issues

Environmental factors play a role in why people are moving out of Louisville. They generally impact the quality of life residents enjoy.

  • Rush hour and gridlock conditions

Traffic congestion is a recent concern for Louisville residents. Back in 2023, the newly implemented bus routing system in Louisville caused delays that sparked anger and frustration. 

In the same year, travel time increased, taking an extra 10 seconds to cover a 10 km distance. 4-5 PM on Thursdays is the most condensed rush hour in Louisville.

  • Limited public transportation system

The major public transportation provider, Transit Authority of River City (TARC), operates some bus routes in Louisville. However, due to funding challenges, the bus system is unreliable and does not function optimally. 

Moreover, it can delay trips by as much as 10 minutes, resulting in inconvenience since there aren’t many public transportation alternatives in the city. 

Transportation costs are also 2% higher than the national average in Louisville. Being a largely suburban area with more rural settlements, many amenities in Louisville outside the city center are far apart. This necessitates car ownership, which is a challenge for low-income households.

  • Weather extremes

If you’re still asking, Why are people moving out of Louisville? Then, you need to check the weather channel for Louisville’s climate. 

The city experiences hot and humid summers. Winters can be relatively mild as well. But it is also prone to extreme weather, such as tornadoes, storms, and earthquakes.

In the first quarter of 2024, an EF-2 tornado with winds of 120 mph hit the city. By and large, Louisville has a tornado index of 234.10, way higher than the nation’s 136.45. 

It has an earthquake index of 0.58, higher than the state’s 0.24. Since some residents prefer to move to regions with fewer environmental risks, they move from Louisville.

Key Takeaway—the subtle decline

While Louisville might not be experiencing a massive exodus, job market challenges, income disparity, and concerns about education and crime make it seem so. 

With people moving out of Louisville, these factors all contribute to the decision of many residents to seek better alternatives in other cities or even across the state. 

The solution?

City leaders should work to rectify the pressing economic and social issues to provide a better quality of life for residents.

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