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  1. After a person is arrested and charged with a crime, they may be released on bail and required to participate in a community supervision program while awaiting trial. These 'pre-trial programs' are common throughout the United States, but very little research has demonstrated their effectiveness. Researchers have emphasized the need for more rigorous program evaluation methods, which we introduce in this article. We describe a program evaluation pipeline that uses recent interpretable machine learning techniques for observational causal inference, and demonstrate these techniques in a study of a pre-trial program in Durham, North Carolina. Our findings show no evidence that the program either significantly increased or decreased the probability of new criminal charges. If these findings replicate, the criminal-legal system needs to either improve pre-trial programs or consider alternatives to them. The simplest option is to release low-risk individuals back into the community without subjecting them to any restrictions or conditions. Another option is to assign individuals to pre-trial programs that incentivize pro-social behavior. We believe that the techniques introduced here can provide researchers the rigorous tools they need to evaluate these programs.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 25, 2025
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  3. null (Ed.)
    A classical problem in causal inference is that of matching, where treatment units need to be matched to control units based on covariate information. In this work, we propose a method that computes high quality almost-exact matches for high-dimensional categorical datasets. This method, called FLAME (Fast Large-scale Almost Matching Exactly), learns a distance metric for matching using a hold-out training data set. In order to perform matching efficiently for large datasets, FLAME leverages techniques that are natural for query processing in the area of database management, and two implementations of FLAME are provided: the first uses SQL queries and the second uses bit-vector techniques. The algorithm starts by constructing matches of the highest quality (exact matches on all covariates), and successively eliminates variables in order to match exactly on as many variables as possible, while still maintaining interpretable high-quality matches and balance between treatment and control groups. We leverage these high quality matches to estimate conditional average treatment effects (CATEs). Our experiments show that FLAME scales to huge datasets with millions of observations where existing state-of-the-art methods fail, and that it achieves significantly better performance than other matching methods. 
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  5. Community detection tasks have received a lot of attention across statistics, machine learning, and information theory with work concentrating on providing theoretical guarantees for different methodological approaches to the stochastic block model. Recent work on community detection has focused on modeling the spectral embedding of a network using Gaussian mixture models (GMMs) in scaling regimes where the ability to detect community memberships improves with the size of the network. However, these regimes are not very realistic. This paper provides tractable methodology motivated by new theoretical results for networks with non-vanishing noise. We present a procedure for community detection using novel GMMs that incorporate truncation and shrinkage effects. We provide empirical validation of this new representation as well as experimental results using a large email dataset. 
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    We propose a matching method for observational data that matches units with others in unit-specific, hyper-box-shaped regions of the covariate space. These regions are large enough that many matches are created for each unit and small enough that the treatment effect is roughly constant throughout. The regions are found as either the solution to a mixed integer program, or using a (fast) approximation algorithm. The result is an interpretable and tailored estimate of the causal effect for each unit. 
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    We propose a matching method that recovers direct treatment effects from randomized experiments where units are connected in an observed network, and units that share edges can potentially influence each others’ outcomes. Traditional treatment effect estimators for randomized experiments are biased and error prone in this setting. Our method matches units almost exactly on counts of unique subgraphs within their neighborhood graphs. The matches that we construct are interpretable and high-quality. Our method can be extended easily to accommodate additional unit-level covariate information. We show empirically that our method performs better than other existing methodologies for this problem, while producing meaningful, interpretable results. 
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