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To be sure, illegitimacy rates spiked not only because of welfare policies, but also as a result of some powerful cultural influences that arose at that time. For example, the radical feminist movement that emerged in the Sixties derided marriage as an institution that fostered male domination and harmed women psychologically and economically. Leading feminists portrayed mother-headed, fatherless families as viable, respectable, and equally desirable alternatives to traditional nuclear families.

In 1963, feminist icon Betty Friedan likened American housewives to “the millions who walked to their own death in the [Nazi] concentration camps.” Feminist author Andrea Dworkin urged women to form their own gender-exclusive nation-state, characterized all heterosexual sex as the equivalent of rape, and sought to “destroy patriarchal power at its source, the family, [and] in its most hideous form, the national state.” In 1972 Joyce Ladner, who later became the first female president of Howard University, wrote: “One must question the validity of the white middle-class lifestyle from its very foundation because it has already proven itself to be decadent and unworthy of emulation.” That same year, National Urban League researcher Robert Hill offered: “Research studies have revealed that many one-parent families are more intact or cohesive than many two-parent families: data on child abuse, battered wives and runaway children indicate higher rates among two-parent families in suburban areas than one-parent families in inner city communities.” And in 1975 the feminist and existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir said: “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”

Meanwhile, leftist critics who focused more heavily on America's alleged racism than on its sexism similarly derided the nuclear family as a middle-class “white” institution that, as such, was of little (if any) utility for blacks. Black radicals and anti-establishment revolutionaries rejected the idea of integration into the public order, championing instead the overthrow of “bourgeois morals” and traditional institutions vis à vis marriage and family.

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