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Regional Research Report


Kenton County is one of eight counties within the Cincinnati Metro region which extends into the three states of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. The region includes Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties in Kentucky; Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont Counties in Ohio and Dearborn County in Indiana as shown in Figure 1.

Kenton County is home to the Brent Spence Bridge which is a major economic engine for interstate commerce in the United States. It is one of the nation's busiest trucking routes, with three percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) crossing the bridge each year, equating to more than $2 billion worth of goods traveling over per day and $700 billion per year. This corridor will be seeing an estimated $3.6 billion in improvements which will include a new companion bridge, transforming one of the nation’s most important freight corridors. The Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) while located in Boone County is overseen by the Kenton County Airport Board. 3,702,997 passengers travelled through the airport in 2022, an increase of 1.4 million passengers from 2013. Prior to the worldwide pandemic of 2020, CVG saw exponential growth in passenger numbers to over 4.4 million in 2019 and has been seeing steady increases since a pandemic low of 1.7 million in 2020. CVG has also seen a meteoric rise in total cargo, increasing its pounds of cargo shipped by over 33 percent and has become the seventh largest airport for cargo in the United States. In addition, the cities of Covington, Ludlow and Bromley contribute to the urban core, along with the City of Cincinnati.


The 2023 Update to the Strategic Regional Policy Plan prepared by the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) provides a variety of information regarding the status of the region as it relates to land use, housing, transportation, natural systems, economic development, public facilities and services. This update indicates several key issues of interest for Kenton County including the following.


  • In 2019 approx. 94% of the trips within the region were using the automobile, a number that has continually risen from 1990 where it was approx. 89%. The percentage of commuters using public transit has dropped to 2% from 2.7% in 2010 and 3.5 percent in 1990. In Kenton County, the percentage of housing units with access to bus stops within a quarter of a mile is 40%, which is the second highest percentage in the metro region behind Hamilton County, Ohio (Cincinnati). Kenton County reflects similar commuting patterns as compared to the region.
  • Technology is rapidly changing the landscape of transportation in the region. The tri-state area has seen an increase of 250% between 2018 and 2022 in vehicle registrations for electric vehicles.
  • The OKI region is expected to see an increase of 92% in the volume of freight moving through from 2017 to 2050.


  • The report identifies housing cost burden as the most appropriate measure for housing affordability. Households spending more than 30% of their income on housing are identified as having a housing cost burden. In the OKI region, the number of households meeting this threshold is trending down from 135,471 in 2010 to 94,471 in 2019. Over this same period, the opposite has been observed for renters in the region with 119,407 households spending over 30% of their income for housing compared to 109,205 households in 2010, with the most recent data showing the costs of rental housing dramatically rising since 2019.
  • The region is seeing a steady decrease in the number of vacant housing units from a high of 93,273 in 2011 to a low of 64,433 in 2021.
  • Migration patterns are showing a net loss for the region. The year 2019-2020 saw 42,537 migrate into the region with an average household income of $64,137 and 43,254 migrating out of the region with an average household income of $70,534. Kenton County continues to see population growth however, with population climbing from 159,720 in 2010 to 169,064 in 2020, an increase of 5.9%.


  •  The median household income in the region has seen a steady increase of $32,095 in 1990 to $56,767 in 2010, and $75,062 in 2020. Kenton County’s median household income increased from $30,516 in 1990 to $51,646 in 2010, and $76,016 in 2020 just slightly higher than the region’s.
  • The region saw a 10% growth in total employment between 1990 and 2010. All counties experienced a loss in total employment between 2008 and 2009. Approx. 8% of the region’s total employment is from Kenton County which saw a 33% increase between 1990 and 2010.
  • Approx. 8% of the civilian workforce within the region in 2010 is from Kenton County which saw an increase of 15% in the civilian workforce between 1990 and 2010. However this was still one of the lowest increases of civilian workforce in the region after Campbell County, Kentucky and Hamilton County, Ohio.
  •  In the region, 92.5% of the population has attained a high school diploma or higher with 36.9% attaining at least a Bachelor’s degree. Kenton County is a little higher than the region with 93.1% attaining at least a high school diploma and 38.5% attaining at least a bachelor's degree. This is also higher than the rates within the Commonwealth and within the United States.
  • The total number of business establishments in the region grew by 3,508 between 1990 and 2010. The latest Census has Kenton County with 3,214 total employer establishments.

Land Use

  •  The region’s urbanized land area per capita between 2000 and 2010 increased at a greater pace (0.25) than the national average (0.18). Also, between 1990 and 2000, and again from 2000 to 2010 the region’s urbanized land increased at a higher rate than the population increased. While the urbanized area in Kenton County has remained relatively north of Walton-Nicolson Pike, land consumption continues at a faster pace compared to population growth.
  •  Kenton County is the second smallest in terms of land area compared to all counties in the region as shown in Figure 1.


The Cincinnati Region is a 16 County metropolitan area spanning three states with a population of over 2.2 million. The region ranks 11th among a list of 22 peer cities in total population but is growing at a slower pace than many of their peer cities such as Columbus, Nashville, and Raleigh. Kenton County ranks 4th in the region in total population and is the most populated county outside of the State of Ohio.

The US Census Bureau defines prime working age as the number of residents in an area between the ages of 25-54. This number is an important economic factor. The Cincinnati region ranks low among its peers at 38.1% of its population falling within this prime range.

The region has seen steady employment growth over the past five years. This growth is enough to rank the region in the middle of the pack with its peer regions. The region saw an increase of 25,092 jobs between 2017 and 2022, which equates to a growth of 2.19%. Within the region, three of the top ten fastest growing employment areas by zip code are within Kenton County. Erlanger comes in at number four in total employment with an increase of 14.8%, Covington is 6th with a growth of 9.2%, and Independence is 7th with a growth of 29.4%.


Research on national trends indicates a shift in the model for economic success as it relates to community development. Attracting young professionals to a region and accommodating seniors who want to age in place are more strongly tied to community design as ever before. According to the Urban Land Institute’s planning and land use analyst, Ed McMahon, “The 20th century model of economic development focused on the ‘one big thing’ … that is, mega projects like convention centers, giant ‘festival marketplaces,’ and similar large-scale proposals.”   McMahon points out that real estate analysts and investors have recognized that this model rarely works and it is becoming clear that many little things are necessary to “work together synergistically.”  The new model of economic development focuses attention on the fact that entire communities get “stronger one building at a time.”  Additionally, McMahon noted that “the image of a community is fundamentally important to its economic well-being” and this is noticed by both people and businesses.

The Urban Land Institute’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2013 report indicates that the younger demographic cohorts orient away from the suburbs to more urban lifestyles, and these young adults willingly rent shoebox-sized apartment units as long as neighborhoods have enticing amenities with access to mass transit. The report also indicates that “American infill” locations offering walkability and strong transit systems continue to outshine the others. These locations offer advantages to the echo older generation, which in itself is a key demographic in the real estate investor’s eye.

According to the National Trends in Planning Report from 2022, the number of older adults (65+) in the country could double by 2025. Communities need to prepare with physical and social infrastructure to support this population. There is also a trend of younger adults and youth becoming more involved in planning related movements. With this younger population being more likely to mobilize around social issues, communities could begin to see a rise in communities actively advocating for land uses that have traditionally seen difficulties, such as higher densities. This movement has been called YIMBY or Yes in My Back Yard.


Kenton County provides a variety of advantages in terms or offering different lifestyle choices for urban, outer urban, suburban and rural living. The urban core of the Cincinnati metropolitan region includes the downtown areas of Covington, Ludlow and Bromley and offers urban living options in close proximity to downtown jobs and entertainment. The suburban core of Kenton County offers homes in different price points that are enticing to families. Rural living is just 20 minutes away from the urban core and offers a wide expanse of agricultural lands.


The Cincinnati metro region is competing for jobs and talent with 11 peer regions around the country. The region is second best in terms of providing low cost of living opportunities which should continue to be encouraged. The region lags behind on many people and job indicators including increasing the size of the labor pool, net migration and educational attainment. All these factors will require coordination on a regional scale. A large percentage of the households within the region spend 25-30% of their income on combined housing and transportation costs. This index should be examined closely in order to keep a check on the cost of living.

The median household income has steadily been increasing along with job growth and population in the civilian workforce indicating an improvement in the region’s economy. The region continues to struggle with the level of land consumption compared to population increase. This in turn increases the need for improved infrastructure and better transit options. Land consumption and growth should be monitored on a regional scale to assess the impact on infrastructure.

  • APA 2022 Trend Report for Planners
  • US Census
  • State of the Region, Cincinnati, 2023; Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber