RACINE COUNTY — A growing number of immigrants helped offset otherwise slow population growth in Racine County and other metropolitan areas in the Midwest, according to a new study.

Rob Paral, the lead author of the study released last month by the nonpartisan Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said it was the first study that examined U.S. Census data on immigrant populations in metro areas, and not just cities, in the Midwest.

In Racine County, the number of immigrants is approaching 10,000. The county had 9,339 immigrants in 2010, according to the study, up from 6,519 in 2000. The study does not count illegal immigrants separately from legal immigrants, including both in its totals.

Foreign-born people made up about 4.8 percent of the Racine County population, compared to 3.5 percent in 2000.

“You’re getting to the point where you’re getting, not a huge, but a substantial and important immigrant population,” Paral said. “It really becomes time to think, how do we leverage this in a smart way? How do we manage this and use it for the benefit of the region?”

Racine County’s population went from 185,041 in 2000 to 195,443 in 2010, with immigrants accounting for about 27 percent of the growth, according to the study. That percentage was about average compared to the 71 other Midwestern areas in the study, Paral said.

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