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- Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS)
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- National Science Foundation
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Making predictions that are fair with regard to protected attributes (race, gender, age, etc.) has become an important requirement for classification algorithms. Existing techniques derive a fair model from sampled labeled data relying on the assumption that training and testing data are identically and independently drawn (iid) from the same distribution. In practice, distribution shift can and does occur between training and testing datasets as the characteristics of individuals interacting with the machine learning system change. We investigate fairness under covariate shift, a relaxation of the iid assumption in which the inputs or covariates change while the conditional label distribution remains the same. We seek fair decisions under these assumptions on target data with unknown labels. We propose an approach that obtains the predictor that is robust to the worst-case testing performance while satisfying target fairness requirements and matching statistical properties of the source data. We demonstrate the benefits of our approach on benchmark prediction tasks.
Fairness is increasingly recognized as a critical component of machine learning systems. However, it is the underlying data on which these systems are trained that often reflect discrimination, suggesting a database repair problem. Existing treatments of fairness rely on statistical correlations that can be fooled by statistical anomalies, such as Simpson's paradox. Proposals for causality-based definitions of fairness can correctly model some of these situations, but they require specification of the underlying causal models. In this paper, we formalize the situation as a database repair problem, proving sufficient conditions for fair classifiers in terms of admissible variables as opposed to a complete causal model. We show that these conditions correctly capture subtle fairness violations. We then use these conditions as the basis for database repair algorithms that provide provable fairness guarantees about classifiers trained on their training labels. We evaluate our algorithms on real data, demonstrating improvement over the state of the art on multiple fairness metrics proposed in the literature while retaining high utility.
As machine learning (ML) algorithms are increasingly used in high-stakes applications, concerns have arisen that they may be biased against certain social groups. Although many approaches have been proposed to make ML models fair, they typically rely on the assumption that data distributions in training and deployment are identical. Unfortunately, this is commonly violated in practice and a model that is fair during training may lead to an unexpected outcome during its deployment. Although the problem of designing robust ML models under dataset shifts has been widely studied, most existing works focus only on the transfer of accuracy. In this paper, we study the transfer of both fairness and accuracy under domain generalization where the data at test time may be sampled from never-before-seen domains. We first develop theoretical bounds on the unfairness and expected loss at deployment, and then derive sufficient conditions under which fairness and accuracy can be perfectly transferred via invariant representation learning. Guided by this, we design a learning algorithm such that fair ML models learned with training data still have high fairness and accuracy when deployment environments change. Experiments on real-world data validate the proposed algorithm.
Clustering is a fundamental unsupervised learning problem where a data-set is partitioned into clusters that consist of nearby points in a metric space. A recent variant, fair clustering, associates a color with each point representing its group membership and requires that each color has (approximately) equal representation in each cluster to satisfy group fairness. In this model, the cost of the clustering objective increases due to enforcing fairness in the algorithm. The relative increase in the cost, the “price of fairness,” can indeed be unbounded. Therefore, in this paper we propose to treat an upper bound on the clustering objective as a constraint on the clustering problem, and to maximize equality of representation subject to it. We consider two fairness objectives: the group utilitarian objective and the group egalitarian objective, as well as the group leximin objective which generalizes the group egalitarian objective. We derive fundamental lower bounds on the approximation of the utilitarian and egalitarian objectives and introduce algorithms with provable guarantees for them. For the leximin objective we introduce an effective heuristic algorithm. We further derive impossibility results for other natural fairness objectives. We conclude with experimental results on real-world datasets that demonstrate the validity of our algorithms.
Fairness-aware learning studies the problem of building machine learning models that are subject to fairness requirements. Counterfactual fairness is a notion of fairness derived from Pearl's causal model, which considers a model is fair if for a particular individual or group its prediction in the real world is the same as that in the counterfactual world where the individual(s) had belonged to a different demographic group. However, an inherent limitation of counterfactual fairness is that it cannot be uniquely quantified from the observational data in certain situations, due to the unidentifiability of the counterfactual quantity. In this paper, we address this limitation by mathematically bounding the unidentifiable counterfactual quantity, and develop a theoretically sound algorithm for constructing counterfactually fair classifiers. We evaluate our method in the experiments using both synthetic and real-world datasets, as well as compare with existing methods. The results validate our theory and show the effectiveness of our method.