NIPS Proceedingsβ

Causal Inference through a Witness Protection Program

Part of: Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27 (NIPS 2014)

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Conference Event Type: Poster


One of the most fundamental problems in causal inference is the estimation of a causal effect when variables are confounded. This is difficult in an observational study because one has no direct evidence that all confounders have been adjusted for. We introduce a novel approach for estimating causal effects that exploits observational conditional independencies to suggest ``weak'' paths in a unknown causal graph. The widely used faithfulness condition of Spirtes et al. is relaxed to allow for varying degrees of ``path cancellations'' that will imply conditional independencies but do not rule out the existence of confounding causal paths. The outcome is a posterior distribution over bounds on the average causal effect via a linear programming approach and Bayesian inference. We claim this approach should be used in regular practice to complement other default tools in observational studies.