Maria Cancian is Emeritus 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 well-being. Ongoing projects consider the implications of multiple-partner fertility for family organization and policy, as well as the interactions of the incarceration, child welfare, and child support systems. She is Principal Investigator, with Daniel R. Meyer, of the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration Evaluation.
Cancian was the College of Letters and Science Associate Dean for Fiscal Initiatives and Social Sciences from 2011 to 2014, when she joined the Obama administration as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and then Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Administration for Children and Families in HHS. She returned to the faculty in 2016.
Professor Cancian has served as a 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.