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Counterfactual Cross-Validation: Effective Causal Model Selection from Observational Data

arXiv.org Machine Learning

What is the most effective way to select the best causal model among potential candidates? In this paper, we propose a method to effectively select the best individual-level treatment effect (ITE) predictors from a set of candidates using only an observational validation set. In model selection or hyperparameter tuning, we are interested in choosing the best model or the value of hyperparameter from potential candidates. Thus, we focus on accurately preserving the rank order of the ITE prediction performance of candidate causal models. The proposed evaluation metric is theoretically proved to preserve the true ranking of the model performance in expectation and to minimize the upper bound of the finite sample uncertainty in model selection. Consistent with the theoretical result, empirical experiments demonstrate that our proposed method is more likely to select the best model and set of hyperparameter in both model selection and hyperparameter tuning.


Machine Learning Methods Economists Should Know About

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We discuss the relevance of the recent Machine Learning (ML) literature for economics and econometrics. First we discuss the differences in goals, methods and settings between the ML literature and the traditional econometrics and statistics literatures. Then we discuss some specific methods from the machine learning literature that we view as important for empirical researchers in economics. These include supervised learning methods for regression and classification, unsupervised learning methods, as well as matrix completion methods. Finally, we highlight newly developed methods at the intersection of ML and econometrics, methods that typically perform better than either off-the-shelf ML or more traditional econometric methods when applied to particular classes of problems, problems that include causal inference for average treatment effects, optimal policy estimation, and estimation of the counterfactual effect of price changes in consumer choice models.


Group Average Treatment Effects for Observational Studies

arXiv.org Machine Learning

The paper proposes an estimator to make inference on key features of heterogeneous treatment effects sorted by impact groups (GATES) for non-randomised experiments. Observational studies are standard in policy evaluation from labour markets, educational surveys, and other empirical studies. To control for a potential selection-bias we implement a doubly-robust estimator in the first stage. Keeping the flexibility to use any machine learning method to learn the conditional mean functions as well as the propensity score we also use machine learning methods to learn a function for the conditional average treatment effect. The group average treatment effect is then estimated via a parametric linear model to provide p-values and confidence intervals. The result is a best linear predictor for effect heterogeneity based on impact groups. Cross-splitting and averaging for each observation is a further extension to avoid biases introduced through sample splitting. The advantage of the proposed method is a robust estimation of heterogeneous group treatment effects under mild assumptions, which is comparable with other models and thus keeps its flexibility in the choice of machine learning methods. At the same time, its ability to deliver interpretable results is ensured.


A Survey on Causal Inference

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Causal inference is a critical research topic across many domains, such as statistics, computer science, education, public policy and economics, for decades. Nowadays, estimating causal effect from observational data has become an appealing research direction owing to the large amount of available data and low budget requirement, compared with randomized controlled trials. Embraced with the rapidly developed machine learning area, various causal effect estimation methods for observational data have sprung up. In this survey, we provide a comprehensive review of causal inference methods under the potential outcome framework, one of the well known causal inference framework. The methods are divided into two categories depending on whether they require all three assumptions of the potential outcome framework or not. For each category, both the traditional statistical methods and the recent machine learning enhanced methods are discussed and compared. The plausible applications of these methods are also presented, including the applications in advertising, recommendation, medicine and so on. Moreover, the commonly used benchmark datasets as well as the open-source codes are also summarized, which facilitate researchers and practitioners to explore, evaluate and apply the causal inference methods.


Stochastic Intervention for Causal Effect Estimation

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Causal inference methods are widely applied in various decision-making domains such as precision medicine, optimal policy and economics. Central to these applications is the treatment effect estimation of intervention strategies. Current estimation methods are mostly restricted to the deterministic treatment, which however, is unable to address the stochastic space treatment policies. Moreover, previous methods can only make binary yes-or-no decisions based on the treatment effect, lacking the capability of providing fine-grained effect estimation degree to explain the process of decision making. In our study, we therefore advance the causal inference research to estimate stochastic intervention effect by devising a new stochastic propensity score and stochastic intervention effect estimator (SIE). Meanwhile, we design a customized genetic algorithm specific to stochastic intervention effect (Ge-SIO) with the aim of providing causal evidence for decision making. We provide the theoretical analysis and conduct an empirical study to justify that our proposed measures and algorithms can achieve a significant performance lift in comparison with state-of-the-art baselines.