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Counterfactual Fairness with Partially Known Causal Graph

Aoqi Zuo · Susan Wei · Tongliang Liu · Bo Han · Kun Zhang · Mingming Gong

Hall J (level 1) #326

Keywords: [ Causal Inference ] [ machine learning ] [ Fairness ]


Fair machine learning aims to avoid treating individuals or sub-populations unfavourably based on \textit{sensitive attributes}, such as gender and race. Those methods in fair machine learning that are built on causal inference ascertain discrimination and bias through causal effects. Though causality-based fair learning is attracting increasing attention, current methods assume the true causal graph is fully known. This paper proposes a general method to achieve the notion of counterfactual fairness when the true causal graph is unknown. To select features that lead to counterfactual fairness, we derive the conditions and algorithms to identify ancestral relations between variables on a \textit{Partially Directed Acyclic Graph (PDAG)}, specifically, a class of causal DAGs that can be learned from observational data combined with domain knowledge. Interestingly, we find that counterfactual fairness can be achieved as if the true causal graph were fully known, when specific background knowledge is provided: the sensitive attributes do not have ancestors in the causal graph. Results on both simulated and real-world datasets demonstrate the effectiveness of our method.

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