Collaborating Authors

A semiparametric instrumental variable approach to optimal treatment regimes under endogeneity Machine Learning

There is a fast-growing literature on estimating optimal treatment regimes based on randomized trials or observational studies under a key identifying condition of no unmeasured confounding. Because confounding by unmeasured factors cannot generally be ruled out with certainty in observational studies or randomized trials subject to noncompliance, we propose a general instrumental variable approach to learning optimal treatment regimes under endogeneity. Specifically, we provide sufficient conditions for the identification of both value function $E[Y_{\cD(L)}]$ for a given regime $\cD$ and optimal regime $\arg \max_{\cD} E[Y_{\cD(L)}]$ with the aid of a binary instrumental variable, when no unmeasured confounding fails to hold. We establish consistency of the proposed weighted estimators. We also extend the proposed method to identify and estimate the optimal treatment regime among those who would comply to the assigned treatment under monotonicity. In this latter case, we establish the somewhat surprising result that the complier optimal regime can be consistently estimated without directly collecting compliance information and therefore without the complier average treatment effect itself being identified. Furthermore, we propose novel semiparametric locally efficient and multiply robust estimators. Our approach is illustrated via extensive simulation studies and a data application on the effect of child rearing on labor participation.

Estimating and Improving Dynamic Treatment Regimes With a Time-Varying Instrumental Variable Machine Learning

Estimating dynamic treatment regimes (DTRs) from retrospective observational data is challenging as some degree of unmeasured confounding is often expected. In this work, we develop a framework of estimating properly defined "optimal" DTRs with a time-varying instrumental variable (IV) when unmeasured covariates confound the treatment and outcome, rendering the potential outcome distributions only partially identified. We derive a novel Bellman equation under partial identification, use it to define a generic class of estimands (termed IV-optimal DTRs), and study the associated estimation problem. We then extend the IV-optimality framework to tackle the policy improvement problem, delivering IV-improved DTRs that are guaranteed to perform no worse and potentially better than a pre-specified baseline DTR. Importantly, our IV-improvement framework opens up the possibility of strictly improving upon DTRs that are optimal under the no unmeasured confounding assumption (NUCA). We demonstrate via extensive simulations the superior performance of IV-optimal and IV-improved DTRs over the DTRs that are optimal only under the NUCA. In a real data example, we embed retrospective observational registry data into a natural, two-stage experiment with noncompliance using a time-varying IV and estimate useful IV-optimal DTRs that assign mothers to high-level or low-level neonatal intensive care units based on their prognostic variables.

Proximal Learning for Individualized Treatment Regimes Under Unmeasured Confounding Machine Learning

Data-driven individualized decision making has recently received increasing research interests. Most existing methods rely on the assumption of no unmeasured confounding, which unfortunately cannot be ensured in practice especially in observational studies. Motivated by the recent proposed proximal causal inference, we develop several proximal learning approaches to estimating optimal individualized treatment regimes (ITRs) in the presence of unmeasured confounding. In particular, we establish several identification results for different classes of ITRs, exhibiting the trade-off between the risk of making untestable assumptions and the value function improvement in decision making. Based on these results, we propose several classification-based approaches to finding a variety of restricted in-class optimal ITRs and develop their theoretical properties. The appealing numerical performance of our proposed methods is demonstrated via an extensive simulation study and one real data application.

Safe Policy Learning through Extrapolation: Application to Pre-trial Risk Assessment Machine Learning

Algorithmic recommendations and decisions have become ubiquitous in today's society. Many of these and other data-driven policies are based on known, deterministic rules to ensure their transparency and interpretability. This is especially true when such policies are used for public policy decision-making. For example, algorithmic pre-trial risk assessments, which serve as our motivating application, provide relatively simple, deterministic classification scores and recommendations to help judges make release decisions. Unfortunately, existing methods for policy learning are not applicable because they require existing policies to be stochastic rather than deterministic. We develop a robust optimization approach that partially identifies the expected utility of a policy, and then finds an optimal policy by minimizing the worst-case regret. The resulting policy is conservative but has a statistical safety guarantee, allowing the policy-maker to limit the probability of producing a worse outcome than the existing policy. We extend this approach to common and important settings where humans make decisions with the aid of algorithmic recommendations. Lastly, we apply the proposed methodology to a unique field experiment on pre-trial risk assessments. We derive new classification and recommendation rules that retain the transparency and interpretability of the existing risk assessment instrument while potentially leading to better overall outcomes at a lower cost.

Learning Optimal Fair Policies Machine Learning

We consider the problem of learning optimal policies from observational data in a way that satisfies certain fairness criteria. The issue of fairness arises where some covariates used in decision making are sensitive features, or are correlated with sensitive features. (Nabi and Shpitser 2018) formalized fairness in the context of regression problems as constraining the causal effects of sensitive features along certain disallowed causal pathways. The existence of these causal effects may be called retrospective unfairness in the sense of already being present in the data before analysis begins, and may be due to discriminatory practices or the biased way in which variables are defined or recorded. In the context of learning policies, what we call prospective bias, i.e., the inappropriate dependence of learned policies on sensitive features, is also possible. In this paper, we use methods from causal and semiparametric inference to learn optimal policies in a way that addresses both retrospective bias in the data, and prospective bias due to the policy. In addition, our methods appropriately address statistical bias due to model misspecification and confounding bias, which are important in the estimation of path-specific causal effects from observational data. We apply our methods to both synthetic data and real criminal justice data.