Conditional Independence Testing with Heteroskedastic Data and Applications to Causal Discovery

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental

Authors

Wiebke G√ľnther, Urmi Ninad, Jonas Wahl, Jakob Runge

Abstract

Conditional independence (CI) testing is frequently used in data analysis and machine learning for various scientific fields and it forms the basis of constraint-based causal discovery. Oftentimes, CI testing relies on strong, rather unrealistic assumptions. One of these assumptions is homoskedasticity, in other words, a constant conditional variance is assumed. We frame heteroskedasticity in a structural causal model framework and present an adaptation of the partial correlation CI test that works well in the presence of heteroskedastic noise, given that expert knowledge about the heteroskedastic relationships is available. Further, we provide theoretical consistency results for the proposed CI test which carry over to causal discovery under certain assumptions. Numerical causal discovery experiments demonstrate that the adapted partial correlation CI test outperforms the standard test in the presence of heteroskedasticity and is on par for the homoskedastic case. Finally, we discuss the general challenges and limits as to how expert knowledge about heteroskedasticity can be accounted for in causal discovery.