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Course# MATH-614: Foundations of causal inference

Summary

This seminar will provide a survey of the canonical literature in causal inference. At the end of this course, students will gain a broad understanding of the most important methodological concepts and tools in this field, and will be equipped to critically engage and contextualize modern literature

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This course covers formal frameworks for causal inference. We focus on experimental designs, definitions of causal models, interpretation of causal parameters and estimation of causal effects.

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A basic course in probability and statistics

Causal inference

Causal inference is the process of determining the independent, actual effect of a particular phenomenon that is a component of a larger system. The main difference between causal inference and inference of association is that causal inference analyzes the response of an effect variable when a cause of the effect variable is changed. The science of why things occur is called etiology, and can be described using the language of scientific causal notation. Causal inference is said to provide the evidence of causality theorized by causal reasoning.

Causality

Causality (also called causation, or cause and effect) is influence by which one event, process, state, or object (a cause) contributes to the production of another event, process, state, or object (an effect) where the cause is partly responsible for the effect, and the effect is partly dependent on the cause. In general, a process has many causes, which are also said to be causal factors for it, and all lie in its past. An effect can in turn be a cause of, or causal factor for, many other effects, which all lie in its future.

Statistical inference

Statistical inference is the process of using data analysis to infer properties of an underlying distribution of probability. Inferential statistical analysis infers properties of a population, for example by testing hypotheses and deriving estimates. It is assumed that the observed data set is sampled from a larger population. Inferential statistics can be contrasted with descriptive statistics. Descriptive statistics is solely concerned with properties of the observed data, and it does not rest on the assumption that the data come from a larger population.

Statistical theory

The theory of statistics provides a basis for the whole range of techniques, in both study design and data analysis, that are used within applications of statistics. The theory covers approaches to statistical-decision problems and to statistical inference, and the actions and deductions that satisfy the basic principles stated for these different approaches. Within a given approach, statistical theory gives ways of comparing statistical procedures; it can find a best possible procedure within a given context for given statistical problems, or can provide guidance on the choice between alternative procedures.

Bayesian inference

Bayesian inference (ˈbeɪziən or ˈbeɪʒən ) is a method of statistical inference in which Bayes' theorem is used to update the probability for a hypothesis as more evidence or information becomes available. Bayesian inference is an important technique in statistics, and especially in mathematical statistics. Bayesian updating is particularly important in the dynamic analysis of a sequence of data. Bayesian inference has found application in a wide range of activities, including science, engineering, philosophy, medicine, sport, and law.