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Publication# Classification with Fairness Constraints: A Meta-Algorithm with Provable Guarantees

Abstract

Developing classification algorithms that are fair with respect to sensitive attributes of the data is an important problem due to the increased deployment of classification algorithms in societal contexts. Several recent works have focused on studying classification with respect to specific fairness metrics, modeled the corresponding fair classification problem as constrained optimization problems, and developed tailored algorithms to solve them. Despite this, there still remain important metrics for which there are no fair classifiers with theoretical guarantees; primarily because the resulting optimization problem is non-convex. The main contribution of this paper is a meta-algorithm for classification that can take as input a general class of fairness constraints with respect to multiple non disjoint and multi-valued sensitive attributes, and which comes with provable guarantees. In particular, our algorithm can handle non-convex "linear fractional" constraints (which includes fairness constraints such as predictive parity) for which no prior algorithm was known. Key to our results is an algorithm for a family of classification problems with convex constraints along with a reduction from classification problems with linear fractional constraints to this family. Empirically, we observe that our algorithm is fast, can achieve near-perfect fairness with respect to various fairness metrics, and the loss in accuracy due to the imposed fairness constraints is often small.

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Related concepts (6)

Optimization problem

In mathematics, computer science and economics, an optimization problem is the problem of finding the best solution from all feasible solutions. Optimization problems can be divided into two categories, depending on whether the variables are continuous or discrete: An optimization problem with discrete variables is known as a discrete optimization, in which an object such as an integer, permutation or graph must be found from a countable set.

Algorithm

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm (ˈælɡərɪðəm) is a finite sequence of rigorous instructions, typically used to solve a class of specific problems or to perform a computation. Algorithms are used as specifications for performing calculations and data processing. More advanced algorithms can use conditionals to divert the code execution through various routes (referred to as automated decision-making) and deduce valid inferences (referred to as automated reasoning), achieving automation eventually.

Accuracy and precision

Accuracy and precision are two measures of observational error. Accuracy is how close a given set of measurements (observations or readings) are to their true value, while precision is how close the measurements are to each other. In other words, precision is a description of random errors, a measure of statistical variability. Accuracy has two definitions: More commonly, it is a description of only systematic errors, a measure of statistical bias of a given measure of central tendency; low accuracy causes a difference between a result and a true value; ISO calls this trueness.