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Kernel Methods for Policy Evaluation: Treatment Effects, Mediation Analysis, and Off-Policy Planning

by   Rahul Singh, et al.

We propose a novel framework for non-parametric policy evaluation in static and dynamic settings. Under the assumption of selection on observables, we consider treatment effects of the population, of sub-populations, and of alternative populations that may have alternative covariate distributions. We further consider the decomposition of a total effect into a direct effect and an indirect effect (as mediated by a particular mechanism). Under the assumption of sequential selection on observables, we consider the effects of sequences of treatments. Across settings, we allow for treatments that may be discrete, continuous, or even text. Across settings, we allow for estimation of not only counterfactual mean outcomes but also counterfactual distributions of outcomes. We unify analyses across settings by showing that all of these causal learning problems reduce to the re-weighting of a prediction, i.e. causal adjustment. We implement the re-weighting as an inner product in a function space called a reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS), with a closed form solution that can be computed in one line of code. We prove uniform consistency and provide finite sample rates of convergence. We evaluate our estimators in simulations devised by other authors. We use our new estimators to evaluate continuous and heterogeneous treatment effects of the US Jobs Corps training program for disadvantaged youth.


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