Identification of Causal Effects in the Presence of Selection Bias

  • Juan D. Correa Purdue University
  • Jin Tian Iowa State University
  • Elias Bareinboim Purdue University

Abstract

Cause-and-effect relations are one of the most valuable types of knowledge sought after throughout the data-driven sciences since they translate into stable and generalizable explanations as well as efficient and robust decision-making capabilities. Inferring these relations from data, however, is a challenging task. Two of the most common barriers to this goal are known as confounding and selection biases. The former stems from the systematic bias introduced during the treatment assignment, while the latter comes from the systematic bias during the collection of units into the sample. In this paper, we consider the problem of identifiability of causal effects when both confounding and selection biases are simultaneously present. We first investigate the problem of identifiability when all the available data is biased. We prove that the algorithm proposed by [Bareinboim and Tian, 2015] is, in fact, complete, namely, whenever the algorithm returns a failure condition, no identifiability claim about the causal relation can be made by any other method. We then generalize this setting to when, in addition to the biased data, another piece of external data is available, without bias. It may be the case that a subset of the covariates could be measured without bias (e.g., from census). We examine the problem of identifiability when a combination of biased and unbiased data is available. We propose a new algorithm that subsumes the current state-of-the-art method based on the back-door criterion.

Published
2019-07-17
Section
AAAI Technical Track: Knowledge Representation and Reasoning