Three theoretical perspectives on illegitimacy, the anomie, the sub-group, and the demographic, are reviewed and compared. A composite causal model is then developed and estimated using areal data derived from the 1970 U.S. Census. While theoretical nonspecificity disallowed a definitive test, all three perspectives yielded valuable insight into the complex mechanisms underlying illegitimacy rates. Results indicate that variation in illegitimacy rates is systematically related to variation in social structure and that integration of the three positions should prove useful to further research.

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