Fairness in algorithmic decision making: An excursion through the lens of causality

Aria Khademi, David Foley, Sanghack Lee, Vasant Honavar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

As virtually all aspects of our lives are increasingly impacted by algorithmic decision making systems, it is incumbent upon us as a society to ensure such systems do not become instruments of unfair discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. We consider the problem of determining whether the decisions made by such systems are discriminatory, through the lens of causal models. We introduce two definitions of group fairness grounded in causality: fair on average causal effect (FACE), and fair on average causal effect on the treated (FACT). We use the Rubin-Neyman potential outcomes framework for the analysis of cause-effect relationships to robustly estimate FACE and FACT. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed approach on synthetic data. Our analyses of two real-world data sets, the Adult income data set from the UCI repository (with gender as the protected attribute), and the NYC Stop and Frisk data set (with race as the protected attribute), show that the evidence of discrimination obtained by FACE and FACT, or lack thereof, is often in agreement with the findings from other studies. We further show that FACT, being somewhat more nuanced compared to FACE, can yield findings of discrimination that differ from those obtained using FACE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Web Conference 2019 - Proceedings of the World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2019
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Pages2907-2914
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781450366748
DOIs
StatePublished - May 13 2019
Event2019 World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2019 - San Francisco, United States
Duration: May 13 2019May 17 2019

Publication series

NameThe Web Conference 2019 - Proceedings of the World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2019

Conference

Conference2019 World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2019
CountryUnited States
CitySan Francisco
Period5/13/195/17/19

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Software

Cite this

Khademi, A., Foley, D., Lee, S., & Honavar, V. (2019). Fairness in algorithmic decision making: An excursion through the lens of causality. In The Web Conference 2019 - Proceedings of the World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2019 (pp. 2907-2914). (The Web Conference 2019 - Proceedings of the World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2019). Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1145/3308558.3313559