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Free, publiclyaccessible full text available August 16, 2025

We study the problem of online prediction, in which at each time step t, an individual xt arrives, whose label we must predict. Each individual is associated with various groups, defined based on their features such as age, sex, race etc., which may intersect. Our goal is to make predictions that have regret guarantees not just overall but also simultaneously on each subsequence comprised of the members of any single group. Previous work such as [Blum & Lykouris] and [Lee et al] provide attractive regret guarantees for these problems; however, these are computationally intractable on large model classes. We show that a simple modification of the sleeping experts technique of [Blum & Lykouris] yields an efficient reduction to the wellunderstood problem of obtaining diminishing external regret absent group considerations. Our approach gives similar regret guarantees compared to [Blum & Lykouris]; however, we run in time linear in the number of groups, and are oracleefficient in the hypothesis class. This in particular implies that our algorithm is efficient whenever the number of groups is polynomially bounded and the externalregret problem can be solved efficiently, an improvement on [Blum & Lykouris]'s stronger condition that the model class must be small. Our approach can handle online linear regression and online combinatorial optimization problems like online shortest paths. Beyond providing theoretical regret bounds, we evaluate this algorithm with an extensive set of experiments on synthetic data and on two real data sets  Medical costs and the Adult income dataset, both instantiated with intersecting groups defined in terms of race, sex, and other demographic characteristics. We find that uniformly across groups, our algorithm gives substantial error improvements compared to running a standard online linear regression algorithm with no groupwise regret guarantees.more » « lessFree, publiclyaccessible full text available January 1, 2025

We present a stylized model with feedback loops for the evolution of a population's wealth over generations. Individuals have both talent and wealth: talent is a random variable distributed identically for everyone, but wealth is a random variable that is dependent on the population one is born into. Individuals then apply to a downstream agent, which we treat as a university throughout the paper (but could also represent an employer) who makes a decision about whether to admit them or not. The university does not directly observe talent or wealth, but rather a signal (representing e.g. a standardized test) that is a convex combination of both. The university knows the distributions from which an individual's type and wealth are drawn, and makes its decisions based on the posterior distribution of the applicant's characteristics conditional on their population and signal. Each population's wealth distribution at the next round then depends on the fraction of that population that was admitted by the university at the previous round. We study wealth dynamics in this model, and give conditions under which the dynamics have a single attracting fixed point (which implies population wealth inequality is transitory), and conditions under which it can have multiple attracting fixed points (which implies that population wealth inequality can be persistent). In the case in which there are multiple attracting fixed points, we study interventions aimed at eliminating or mitigating inequality, including increasing the capacity of the university to admit more people, aligning the signal generated by individuals with the preferences of the university, and making direct monetary transfers to the less wealthy population.more » « less

null (Ed.)We introduce the \emph{pipeline intervention} problem, defined by a layered directed acyclic graph and a set of stochastic matrices governing transitions between successive layers. The graph is a stylized model for how people from different populations are presented opportunities, eventually leading to some reward. In our model, individuals are born into an initial position (i.e. some node in the first layer of the graph) according to a fixed probability distribution, and then stochastically progress through the graph according to the transition matrices, until they reach a node in the final layer of the graph; each node in the final layer has a \emph{reward} associated with it. The pipeline intervention problem asks how to best make costly changes to the transition matrices governing people's stochastic transitions through the graph, subject to a budget constraint. We consider two objectives: social welfare maximization, and a fairnessmotivated maximin objective that seeks to maximize the value to the population (starting node) with the \emph{least} expected value. We consider two variants of the maximin objective that turn out to be distinct, depending on whether we demand a deterministic solution or allow randomization. For each objective, we give an efficient approximation algorithm (an additive FPTAS) for constant width networks. We also tightly characterize the "price of fairness" in our setting: the ratio between the highest achievable social welfare and the highest social welfare consistent with a maximin optimal solution. Finally we show that for polynomial width networks, even approximating the maximin objective to any constant factor is NP hard, even for networks with constant depth. This shows that the restriction on the width in our positive results is essential.more » « less

We consider a variation on the classical finance problem of optimal portfolio design. In our setting, a large population of consumers is drawn from some distribution over risk tolerances, and each consumer must be assigned to a portfolio of lower risk than her tolerance. The consumers may also belong to underlying groups (for instance, of demographic properties or wealth), and the goal is to design a small number of portfolios that are fair across groups in a particular and natural technical sense. Our main results are algorithms for optimal and nearoptimal portfolio design for both social welfare and fairness objectives, both with and without assumptions on the underlying group structure. We describe an efficient algorithm based on an internal twoplayer zerosum game that learns nearoptimal fair portfolios ex ante and show experimentally that it can be used to obtain a small set of fair portfolios ex post as well. For the special but natural case in which group structure coincides with risk tolerances (which models the reality that wealthy consumers generally tolerate greater risk), we give an efficient and optimal fair algorithm. We also provide generalization guarantees for the underlying risk distribution that has no dependence on the number of portfolios and illustrate the theory with simulation results.more » « less

We study a twostage model, in which students are 1) admitted to college on the basis of an entrance exam which is a noisy signal about their qualifications (type), and then 2) those students who were admitted to college can be hired by an employer as a function of their college grades, which are an independently drawn noisy signal of their type. Students are drawn from one of two populations, which might have different type distributions. We assume that the employer at the end of the pipeline is rational, in the sense that it computes a posterior distribution on student type conditional on all information that it has available (college admissions, grades, and group membership), and makes a decision based on posterior expectation. We then study what kinds of fairness goals can be achieved by the college by setting its admissions rule and grading policy. For example, the college might have the goal of guaranteeing equal opportunity across populations: that the probability of passing through the pipeline and being hired by the employer should be independent of group membership, conditioned on type. Alternately, the college might have the goal of incentivizing the employer to have a group blind hiring rule. We show that both goals can be achieved when the college does not report grades. On the other hand, we show that under reasonable conditions, these goals are impossible to achieve even in isolation when the college uses an (even minimally) informative grading policymore » « less

We consider a data analyst's problem of purchasing data from strategic agents to compute an unbiased estimate of a statistic of interest. Agents incur private costs to reveal their data and the costs can be arbitrarily correlated with their data. Once revealed, data are verifiable. This paper focuses on linear unbiased estimators. We design an individually rational and incentive compatible mechanism that optimizes the worstcase meansquared error of the estimation, where the worstcase is over the unknown correlation between costs and data, subject to a budget constraint in expectation. We characterize the form of the optimal mechanism in closedform. We further extend our results to acquiring data for estimating a parameter in regression analysis, where private costs can correlate with the values of the dependent variable but not with the values of the independent variables.more » « less