Maria Cancian is Professor of Public Affairs and Social Work, and an affiliate and former Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research considers the relationship between public policies and changes in marriage, fertility, employment and family wellbeing. Ongoing projects analyze the interactions of the incarceration, child welfare and child support systems, as well as the implications of multiple partner fertility for family organization and policy. She is Principal Investigator, with Daniel R. Meyer, of the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration.
Nominated by President Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary for the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), she served a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and then Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy for ACF. Prior to her federal appointment, she served as Associate Dean for Social Sciences and Fiscal Initiatives in the UW College of Letters and Science, as well as W. T. Grant Foundation Distinguished Fellow in residence at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, and a Visiting Fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. She received her doctorate in Economics from the University of Michigan.