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A Unified Approach to Quantifying Algorithmic Unfairness: Measuring Individual & Group Unfairness via Inequality Indices

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Discrimination via algorithmic decision making has received considerable attention. Prior work largely focuses on defining conditions for fairness, but does not define satisfactory measures of algorithmic unfairness. In this paper, we focus on the following question: Given two unfair algorithms, how should we determine which of the two is more unfair? Our core idea is to use existing inequality indices from economics to measure how unequally the outcomes of an algorithm benefit different individuals or groups in a population. Our work offers a justified and general framework to compare and contrast the (un)fairness of algorithmic predictors. This unifying approach enables us to quantify unfairness both at the individual and the group level. Further, our work reveals overlooked tradeoffs between different fairness notions: using our proposed measures, the overall individual-level unfairness of an algorithm can be decomposed into a between-group and a within-group component. Earlier methods are typically designed to tackle only between-group unfairness, which may be justified for legal or other reasons. However, we demonstrate that minimizing exclusively the between-group component may, in fact, increase the within-group, and hence the overall unfairness. We characterize and illustrate the tradeoffs between our measures of (un)fairness and the prediction accuracy.


From Parity to Preference-based Notions of Fairness in Classification

Neural Information Processing Systems

The adoption of automated, data-driven decision making in an ever expanding range of applications has raised concerns about its potential unfairness towards certain social groups. In this context, a number of recent studies have focused on defining, detecting, and removing unfairness from data-driven decision systems. However, the existing notions of fairness, based on parity (equality) in treatment or outcomes for different social groups, tend to be quite stringent, limiting the overall decision making accuracy. In this paper, we draw inspiration from the fair-division and envy-freeness literature in economics and game theory and propose preference-based notions of fairness -- given the choice between various sets of decision treatments or outcomes, any group of users would collectively prefer its treatment or outcomes, regardless of the (dis)parity as compared to the other groups. Then, we introduce tractable proxies to design margin-based classifiers that satisfy these preference-based notions of fairness.


Amy Klobuchar and the everyday unfairness of growing up female in America

Los Angeles Times

In 1968, I had learned about civil disobedience and one day defiantly arrived to Nicolas Junior High School in Fullerton wearing a pair of blue jeans. I was promptly sent to the office and told to call my parents to ask them to bring me a skirt. My parents were both working, so I spent several hours sitting in the nurse's office fuming.


Beyond Parity: Fairness Objectives for Collaborative Filtering

Neural Information Processing Systems

We study fairness in collaborative-filtering recommender systems, which are sensitive to discrimination that exists in historical data. Biased data can lead collaborative-filtering methods to make unfair predictions for users from minority groups. We identify the insufficiency of existing fairness metrics and propose four new metrics that address different forms of unfairness. These fairness metrics can be optimized by adding fairness terms to the learning objective. Experiments on synthetic and real data show that our new metrics can better measure fairness than the baseline, and that the fairness objectives effectively help reduce unfairness.


Beyond Parity: Fairness Objectives for Collaborative Filtering

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

We study fairness in collaborative-filtering recommender systems, which are sensitive to discrimination that exists in historical data. Biased data can lead collaborative-filtering methods to make unfair predictions for users from minority groups. We identify the insufficiency of existing fairness metrics and propose four new metrics that address different forms of unfairness. These fairness metrics can be optimized by adding fairness terms to the learning objective. Experiments on synthetic and real data show that our new metrics can better measure fairness than the baseline, and that the fairness objectives effectively help reduce unfairness.