The choice of making an intervention depends on its potential benefit or harm in comparison to alternatives. Estimating the likely outcome of alternatives from observational data is a challenging problem as all outcomes are never observed, and selection bias precludes the direct comparison of differently intervened groups. Despite their empirical success, we show that algorithms that learn domain-invariant representations of inputs (on which to make predictions) are often inappropriate, and develop generalization bounds that demonstrate the dependence on domain overlap and highlight the need for invertible latent maps. Based on these results, we develop a deep kernel regression algorithm and posterior regularization framework that substantially outperforms the state-of-the-art on a variety of benchmarks data sets.
Learning causal effects from observational data greatly benefits a variety of domains such as healthcare, education and sociology. For instance, one could estimate the impact of a policy to decrease unemployment rate. The central problem for causal effect inference is dealing with the unobserved counterfactuals and treatment selection bias. The state-of-the-art approaches focus on solving these problems by balancing the treatment and control groups. However, during the learning and balancing process, highly predictive information from the original covariate space might be lost. In order to build more robust estimators, we tackle this information loss problem by presenting a method called Adversarial Balancing-based representation learning for Causal Effect Inference (ABCEI), based on the recent advances in deep learning. ABCEI uses adversarial learning to balance the distributions of treatment and control group in the latent representation space, without any assumption on the form of the treatment selection/assignment function. ABCEI preserves useful information for predicting causal effects under the regularization of a mutual information estimator. We conduct various experiments on several synthetic and real-world datasets. The experimental results show that ABCEI is robust against treatment selection bias, and matches/outperforms the state-of-the-art approaches.
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.
Practitioners in diverse fields such as healthcare, economics and education are eager to apply machine learning to improve decision making. The cost and impracticality of performing experiments and a recent monumental increase in electronic record keeping has brought attention to the problem of evaluating decisions based on non-experimental observational data. This is the setting of this work. In particular, we study estimation of individual-level causal effects, such as a single patient's response to alternative medication, from recorded contexts, decisions and outcomes. We give generalization bounds on the error in estimated effects based on distance measures between groups receiving different treatments, allowing for sample re-weighting. We provide conditions under which our bound is tight and show how it relates to results for unsupervised domain adaptation. Led by our theoretical results, we devise representation learning algorithms that minimize our bound, by regularizing the representation's induced treatment group distance, and encourage sharing of information between treatment groups. We extend these algorithms to simultaneously learn a weighted representation to further reduce treatment group distances. Finally, an experimental evaluation on real and synthetic data shows the value of our proposed representation architecture and regularization scheme.
Estimating individual treatment effect (ITE) is a challenging problem in causal inference, due to the missing counterfactuals and the selection bias. Existing ITE estimation methods mainly focus on balancing the distributions of control and treated groups, but ignore the local similarity information that provides meaningful constraints on the ITE estimation. In this paper, we propose a local similarity preserved individual treatment effect (SITE) estimation method based on deep representation learning. SITE preserves local similarity and balances data distributions simultaneously, by focusing on several hard samples in each mini-batch. Experimental results on synthetic and three real-world datasets demonstrate the advantages of the proposed SITE method, compared with the state-of-the-art ITE estimation methods.