Model-based and actual independence for fairness-aware classification

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The goal of fairness-aware classification is to categorize data while taking into account potential issues of fairness, discrimination, neutrality, and/or independence. For example, when applying data mining technologies to university admissions, admission criteria must be non-discriminatory and fair with regard to sensitive features, such as gender or race. In this context, such fairness can be formalized as statistical independence between classification results and sensitive features. The main purpose of this paper is to analyze this formal fairness in order to achieve better trade-offs between fairness and prediction accuracy, which is important for applying fairness-aware classifiers in practical use. We focus on a fairness-aware classifier, Calders and Verwer's two-naive-Bayes (CV2NB) method, which has been shown to be superior to other classifiers in terms of fairness. We hypothesize that this superiority is due to the difference in types of independence. That is, because CV2NB achieves actual independence, rather than satisfying model-based independence like the other classifiers, it can account for model bias and a deterministic decision rule. We empirically validate this hypothesis by modifying two fairness-aware classifiers, a prejudice remover method and a reject option-based classification (ROC) method, so as to satisfy actual independence. The fairness of these two modified methods was drastically improved, showing the importance of maintaining actual independence, rather than model-based independence. We additionally extend an approach adopted in the ROC method so as to make it applicable to classifiers other than those with generative models, such as SVMs.


  • Data mining and knowledge discovery

    Data mining and knowledge discovery 32(1), 258-286, 2017



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