Whitehead's research focuses on family, racial/ethnic inequality, poverty, and neighborhoods/housing. Overarching themes in Whitehead's writings include the extent to which the family operates as a mechanism of racial and class stratification and the sharing of resources (e.g. housing, financial, and childcare support) within the extended family network.
Discusses how co-residing in the home of a family member can lower the risk of poverty for some individuals. Asks whether this same potential benefit is found when considering the risk of living in neighborhood-level poverty. Shows that, accounting for individual-level socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, mothers of young children are less likely to live in a high-poverty neighborhood when residing in the home of a family member. Discovers that, although rates of co-residence are high among Black and Latino households, sharing housing resources does not operate as a mechanism to reduce racial disparities in exposure to neighborhood poverty.
Explores whether mothers who have a child with a partner of a different race/ethnicity perceive less availability of informal support (e.g. housing, money, or childcare support) from family members. Demonstrates that having a mixed-race child is associated with lower levels of perceived support from family, relative to mothers with monoracial infants, but only for white mothers. Has implications for mothers' ability to draw on their family support networks during times of need.