Provable Detection of Propagating Sampling Bias in Prediction Models


  • Pavan Ravishankar NYU Courant
  • Qingyu Mo NYU Courant
  • Edward McFowland III Harvard University
  • Daniel B. Neill New York University



ML: Bias and Fairness, PEAI: AI and Law, Justice, Regulation & Governance, PEAI: Bias, Fairness & Equity, PEAI: Societal Impact of AI


With an increased focus on incorporating fairness in machine learning models, it becomes imperative not only to assess and mitigate bias at each stage of the machine learning pipeline but also to understand the downstream impacts of bias across stages. Here we consider a general, but realistic, scenario in which a predictive model is learned from (potentially biased) training data, and model predictions are assessed post-hoc for fairness by some auditing method. We provide a theoretical analysis of how a specific form of data bias, differential sampling bias, propagates from the data stage to the prediction stage. Unlike prior work, we evaluate the downstream impacts of data biases quantitatively rather than qualitatively and prove theoretical guarantees for detection. Under reasonable assumptions, we quantify how the amount of bias in the model predictions varies as a function of the amount of differential sampling bias in the data, and at what point this bias becomes provably detectable by the auditor. Through experiments on two criminal justice datasets-- the well-known COMPAS dataset and historical data from NYPD's stop and frisk policy-- we demonstrate that the theoretical results hold in practice even when our assumptions are relaxed.




How to Cite

Ravishankar, P., Mo, Q., McFowland III, E., & Neill, D. B. (2023). Provable Detection of Propagating Sampling Bias in Prediction Models. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 37(8), 9562-9569.



AAAI Technical Track on Machine Learning III