skip to main content

Title: RieszNet and ForestRiesz: Automatic Debiased Machine Learning with Neural Nets and Random Forests
Many causal and policy effects of interest are defined by linear functionals of high-dimensional or non-parametric regression functions. Root-n consistent and asymptotically normal estimation of the object of interest requires debiasing to reduce the effects of regularization and/or model selection on the object of interest. Debiasing is typically achieved by adding a correction term to the plug-in estimator of the functional, which leads to properties such as semi-parametric efficiency, double robustness, and Neyman orthogonality. We implement an automatic debiasing procedure based on automatically learning the Riesz representation of the linear functional using Neural Nets and Random Forests. Our method only relies on black-box evaluation oracle access to the linear functional and does not require knowledge of its analytic form. We propose a multitasking Neural Net debiasing method with stochastic gradient descent minimization of a combined Riesz representer and regression loss, while sharing representation layers for the two functions. We also propose a Random Forest method which learns a locally linear representation of the Riesz function. Even though our method applies to arbitrary functionals, we experimentally find that it performs well compared to the state of art neural net based algorithm of Shi et al. (2019) for the case of the average treatment effect functional. We also evaluate our method on the problem of estimating average marginal effects with continuous treatments, using semi-synthetic data of gasoline price changes on gasoline demand. Code available at  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Proceedings of Machine Learning Research
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of Machine Learning Research
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Many causal and structural effects depend on regressions. Examples include policy effects, average derivatives, regression decompositions, average treatment effects, causal mediation, and parameters of economic structural models. The regressions may be high‐dimensional, making machine learning useful. Plugging machine learners into identifying equations can lead to poor inference due to bias from regularization and/or model selection. This paper gives automatic debiasing for linear and nonlinear functions of regressions. The debiasing is automatic in using Lasso and the function of interest without the full form of the bias correction. The debiasing can be applied to any regression learner, including neural nets, random forests, Lasso, boosting, and other high‐dimensional methods. In addition to providing the bias correction, we give standard errors that are robust to misspecification, convergence rates for the bias correction, and primitive conditions for asymptotic inference for estimators of a variety of estimators of structural and causal effects. The automatic debiased machine learning is used to estimate the average treatment effect on the treated for the NSW job training data and to estimate demand elasticities from Nielsen scanner data while allowing preferences to be correlated with prices and income. 
    more » « less
  2. Summary

    We provide adaptive inference methods, based on $\ell _1$ regularization, for regular (semiparametric) and nonregular (nonparametric) linear functionals of the conditional expectation function. Examples of regular functionals include average treatment effects, policy effects, and derivatives. Examples of nonregular functionals include average treatment effects, policy effects, and derivatives conditional on a covariate subvector fixed at a point. We construct a Neyman orthogonal equation for the target parameter that is approximately invariant to small perturbations of the nuisance parameters. To achieve this property, we include the Riesz representer for the functional as an additional nuisance parameter. Our analysis yields weak ‘double sparsity robustness’: either the approximation to the regression or the approximation to the representer can be ‘completely dense’ as long as the other is sufficiently ‘sparse’. Our main results are nonasymptotic and imply asymptotic uniform validity over large classes of models, translating into honest confidence bands for both global and local parameters.

    more » « less
  3. There is growing interest in estimating and analyzing heterogeneous treatment effects in experimental and observational studies. We describe a number of metaalgorithms that can take advantage of any supervised learning or regression method in machine learning and statistics to estimate the conditional average treatment effect (CATE) function. Metaalgorithms build on base algorithms—such as random forests (RFs), Bayesian additive regression trees (BARTs), or neural networks—to estimate the CATE, a function that the base algorithms are not designed to estimate directly. We introduce a metaalgorithm, the X-learner, that is provably efficient when the number of units in one treatment group is much larger than in the other and can exploit structural properties of the CATE function. For example, if the CATE function is linear and the response functions in treatment and control are Lipschitz-continuous, the X-learner can still achieve the parametric rate under regularity conditions. We then introduce versions of the X-learner that use RF and BART as base learners. In extensive simulation studies, the X-learner performs favorably, although none of the metalearners is uniformly the best. In two persuasion field experiments from political science, we demonstrate how our X-learner can be used to target treatment regimes and to shed light on underlying mechanisms. A software package is provided that implements our methods.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract Standard estimators of the global average treatment effect can be biased in the presence of interference. This paper proposes regression adjustment estimators for removing bias due to interference in Bernoulli randomized experiments. We use a fitted model to predict the counterfactual outcomes of global control and global treatment. Our work differs from standard regression adjustments in that the adjustment variables are constructed from functions of the treatment assignment vector, and that we allow the researcher to use a collection of any functions correlated with the response, turning the problem of detecting interference into a feature engineering problem. We characterize the distribution of the proposed estimator in a linear model setting and connect the results to the standard theory of regression adjustments under SUTVA. We then propose an estimator that allows for flexible machine learning estimators to be used for fitting a nonlinear interference functional form. We propose conducting statistical inference via bootstrap and resampling methods, which allow us to sidestep the complicated dependences implied by interference and instead rely on empirical covariance structures. Such variance estimation relies on an exogeneity assumption akin to the standard unconfoundedness assumption invoked in observational studies. In simulation experiments, our methods are better at debiasing estimates than existing inverse propensity weighted estimators based on neighborhood exposure modeling. We use our method to reanalyze an experiment concerning weather insurance adoption conducted on a collection of villages in rural China. 
    more » « less
  5. Motivated by mobile devices that record data at a high frequency, we propose a new methodological framework for analyzing a semi-parametric regression model that allow us to study a nonlinear relationship between a scalar response and multiple functional predictors in the presence of scalar covariates. Utilizing functional principal component analysis (FPCA) and the least-squares kernel machine method (LSKM), we are able to substantially extend the framework of semi-parametric regression models of scalar responses on scalar predictors by allowing multiple functional predictors to enter the nonlinear model. Regularization is established for feature selection in the setting of reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces. Our method performs simultaneously model fitting and variable selection on functional features. For the implementation, we propose an effective algorithm to solve related optimization problems in that iterations take place between both linear mixed-effects models and a variable selection method (e.g., sparse group lasso). We show algorithmic convergence results and theoretical guarantees for the proposed methodology. We illustrate its performance through simulation experiments and an analysis of accelerometer data. 
    more » « less