Identification and Estimation of Causal Effects from Dependent Data

Neural Information Processing Systems

The assumption that data samples are independent and identically distributed (iid) is standard in many areas of statistics and machine learning. Nevertheless, in some settings, such as social networks, infectious disease modeling, and reasoning with spatial and temporal data, this assumption is false. An extensive literature exists on making causal inferences under the iid assumption [17, 11, 26, 21], even when unobserved confounding bias may be present. But, as pointed out in [19], causal inference in non-iid contexts is challenging due to the presence of both unobserved confounding and data dependence. In this paper we develop a general theory describing when causal inferences are possible in such scenarios. We use segregated graphs [20], a generalization of latent projection mixed graphs [28], to represent causal models of this type and provide a complete algorithm for nonparametric identification in these models. We then demonstrate how statistical inference may be performed on causal parameters identified by this algorithm. In particular, we consider cases where only a single sample is available for parts of the model due to full interference, i.e., all units are pathwise dependent and neighbors' treatments affect each others' outcomes [24]. We apply these techniques to a synthetic data set which considers users sharing fake news articles given the structure of their social network, user activity levels, and baseline demographics and socioeconomic covariates.


Identification and Estimation of Causal Effects from Dependent Data

Neural Information Processing Systems

The assumption that data samples are independent and identically distributed (iid) is standard in many areas of statistics and machine learning. Nevertheless, in some settings, such as social networks, infectious disease modeling, and reasoning with spatial and temporal data, this assumption is false. An extensive literature exists on making causal inferences under the iid assumption [12, 8, 21, 16], but, as pointed out in [14], causal inference in non-iid contexts is challenging due to the combination of unobserved confounding bias and data dependence. In this paper we develop a general theory describing when causal inferences are possible in such scenarios. We use segregated graphs [15], a generalization of latent projection mixed graphs [23], to represent causal models of this type and provide a complete algorithm for non-parametric identification in these models. We then demonstrate how statistical inferences may be performed on causal parameters identified by this algorithm, even in cases where parts of the model exhibit full interference, meaning only a single sample is available for parts of the model [19]. We apply these techniques to a synthetic data set which considers the adoption of fake news articles given the social network structure, articles read by each person, and baseline demographics and socioeconomic covariates.


Parameter and Structure Learning in Nested Markov Models

arXiv.org Machine Learning

The constraints arising from DAG models with latent variables can be naturally represented by means of acyclic directed mixed graphs (ADMGs). Such graphs contain directed and bidirected arrows, and contain no directed cycles. DAGs with latent variables imply independence constraints in the distribution resulting from a 'fixing' operation, in which a joint distribution is divided by a conditional. This operation generalizes marginalizing and conditioning. Some of these constraints correspond to identifiable 'dormant' independence constraints, with the well known 'Verma constraint' as one example. Recently, models defined by a set of the constraints arising after fixing from a DAG with latents, were characterized via a recursive factorization and a nested Markov property. In addition, a parameterization was given in the discrete case. In this paper we use this parameterization to describe a parameter fitting algorithm, and a search and score structure learning algorithm for these nested Markov models. We apply our algorithms to a variety of datasets.


Segregated Graphs and Marginals of Chain Graph Models

Neural Information Processing Systems

Bayesian networks are a popular representation of asymmetric (for example causal) relationships between random variables. Markov random fields (MRFs) are a complementary model of symmetric relationships used in computer vision, spatial modeling, and social and gene expression networks. A chain graph model under the Lauritzen-Wermuth-Frydenberg interpretation (hereafter a chain graph model) generalizes both Bayesian networks and MRFs, and can represent asymmetric and symmetric relationships together.As in other graphical models, the set of marginals from distributions in a chain graph model induced by the presence of hidden variables forms a complex model. One recent approach to the study of marginal graphical models is to consider a well-behaved supermodel. Such a supermodel of marginals of Bayesian networks, defined only by conditional independences, and termed the ordinary Markov model, was studied at length in (Evans and Richardson, 2014).In this paper, we show that special mixed graphs which we call segregated graphs can be associated, via a Markov property, with supermodels of a marginal of chain graphs defined only by conditional independences.


An Alternative Markov Property for Chain Graphs

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Graphical Markov models use graphs, either undirected, directed, or mixed, to represent possible dependences among statistical variables. Applications of undirected graphs (UDGs) include models for spatial dependence and image analysis, while acyclic directed graphs (ADGs), which are especially convenient for statistical analysis, arise in such fields as genetics and psychometrics and as models for expert systems and Bayesian belief networks. Lauritzen, Wermuth and Frydenberg (LWF) introduced a Markov property for chain graphs, which are mixed graphs that can be used to represent simultaneously both causal and associative dependencies and which include both UDGs and ADGs as special cases. In this paper an alternative Markov property (AMP) for chain graphs is introduced, which in some ways is a more direct extension of the ADG Markov property than is the LWF property for chain graph.