Poster

Causal Context Connects Counterfactual Fairness to Robust Prediction and Group Fairness

Jacy Anthis · Victor Veitch

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1604
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Tue 12 Dec 8:45 a.m. PST — 10:45 a.m. PST

Abstract:

Counterfactual fairness requires that a person would have been classified in the same way by an AI or other algorithmic system if they had a different protected class, such as a different race or gender. This is an intuitive standard, as reflected in the U.S. legal system, but its use is limited because counterfactuals cannot be directly observed in real-world data. On the other hand, group fairness metrics (e.g., demographic parity or equalized odds) are less intuitive but more readily observed. In this paper, we use \textit{causal context} to bridge the gaps between counterfactual fairness, robust prediction, and group fairness. First, we motivate counterfactual fairness by showing that there is not necessarily a fundamental trade-off between fairness and accuracy because, under plausible conditions, the counterfactually fair predictor is in fact accuracy-optimal in an unbiased target distribution. Second, we develop a correspondence between the causal graph of the data-generating process and which, if any, group fairness metrics are equivalent to counterfactual fairness. Third, we show that in three common fairness contexts—measurement error, selection on label, and selection on predictors—counterfactual fairness is equivalent to demographic parity, equalized odds, and calibration, respectively. Counterfactual fairness can sometimes be tested by measuring relatively simple group fairness metrics.

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