Estimating Multi-cause Treatment Effects via Single-cause Perturbation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Authors

Zhaozhi Qian, Alicia Curth, Mihaela van der Schaar

Abstract

Most existing methods for conditional average treatment effect estimation are designed to estimate the effect of a single cause - only one variable can be intervened on at one time. However, many applications involve simultaneous intervention on multiple variables, which leads to multi-cause treatment effect problems. The multi-cause problem is challenging because one needs to overcome the confounding bias for a large number of treatment groups, each with a different cause combination. The combinatorial nature of the problem also leads to severe data scarcity - we only observe one factual outcome out of many potential outcomes. In this work, we propose Single-cause Perturbation (SCP), a novel two-step procedure to estimate the multi-cause treatment effect. SCP starts by augmenting the observational dataset with the estimated potential outcomes under single-cause interventions. It then performs covariate adjustment on the augmented dataset to obtain the estimator. SCP is agnostic to the exact choice of algorithm in either step. We show formally that the procedure is valid under standard assumptions in causal inference. We demonstrate the performance gain of SCP on extensive synthetic and semi-synthetic experiments.