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Conformal Meta-learners for Predictive Inference of Individual Treatment Effects

Ahmed Alaa · Zaid Ahmad · Mark van der Laan

Room R02-R05 (level 2)
[ ] [ Livestream: Visit Oral 2C Causality ]
Tue 12 Dec 2:10 p.m. — 2:25 p.m. PST


We investigate the problem of machine learning-based (ML) predictive inference on individual treatment effects (ITEs). Previous work has focused primarily on developing ML-based “meta-learners” that can provide point estimates of the conditional average treatment effect (CATE)—these are model-agnostic approaches for combining intermediate nuisance estimates to produce estimates of CATE. In this paper, we develop conformal meta-learners, a general framework for issuing predictive intervals for ITEs by applying the standard conformal prediction (CP) procedure on top of CATE meta-learners. We focus on a broad class of meta-learners based on two-stage pseudo-outcome regression and develop a stochastic ordering framework to study their validity. We show that inference with conformal meta-learners is marginally valid if their (pseudo-outcome) conformity scores stochastically dominate “oracle” conformity scores evaluated on the unobserved ITEs. Additionally, we prove that commonly used CATE meta-learners, such as the doubly-robust learner, satisfy a model- and distribution-free stochastic (or convex) dominance condition, making their conformal inferences valid for practically-relevant levels of target coverage. Whereas existing procedures conduct inference on nuisance parameters (i.e., potential outcomes) via weighted CP, conformal meta-learners enable direct inference on the target parameter (ITE). Numerical experiments show that conformal meta-learners provide valid intervals with competitive efficiency while retaining the favorable point estimation properties of CATE meta-learners.

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