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Estimating and Controlling for Equalized Odds via Sensitive Attribute Predictors

Beepul Bharti · Paul Yi · Jeremias Sulam

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1603
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[ Paper [ Poster [ OpenReview
Wed 13 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST


As the use of machine learning models in real world high-stakes decision settings continues to grow, it is highly important that we are able to audit and control for any potential fairness violations these models may exhibit towards certain groups. To do so, one naturally requires access to sensitive attributes, such as demographics, biological sex, or other potentially sensitive features that determine group membership. Unfortunately, in many settings, this information is often unavailable. In this work we study the well known equalized odds (EOD) definition of fairness. In a setting without sensitive attributes, we first provide tight and computable upper bounds for the EOD violation of a predictor. These bounds precisely reflect the worst possible EOD violation. Second, we demonstrate how one can provably control the worst-case EOD by a new post-processing correction method. Our results characterize when directly controlling for EOD with respect to the predicted sensitive attributes is -- and when is not -- optimal when it comes to controlling worst-case EOD. Our results hold under assumptions that are milder than previous works, and we illustrate these results with experiments on synthetic and real datasets.

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