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Counterfactual Fairness Is Basically Demographic Parity

by   Lucas Rosenblatt, et al.

Making fair decisions is crucial to ethically implementing machine learning algorithms in social settings. In this work, we consider the celebrated definition of counterfactual fairness [Kusner et al., NeurIPS, 2017]. We begin by showing that an algorithm which satisfies counterfactual fairness also satisfies demographic parity, a far simpler fairness constraint. Similarly, we show that all algorithms satisfying demographic parity can be trivially modified to satisfy counterfactual fairness. Together, our results indicate that counterfactual fairness is basically equivalent to demographic parity, which has important implications for the growing body of work on counterfactual fairness. We then validate our theoretical findings empirically, analyzing three existing algorithms for counterfactual fairness against three simple benchmarks. We find that two simple benchmark algorithms outperform all three existing algorithms – in terms of fairness, accuracy, and efficiency – on several data sets. Our analysis leads us to formalize a concrete fairness goal: to preserve the order of individuals within protected groups. We believe transparency around the ordering of individuals within protected groups makes fair algorithms more trustworthy. By design, the two simple benchmark algorithms satisfy this goal while the existing algorithms for counterfactual fairness do not.


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