Bounding and Approximating Intersectional Fairness through Marginal Fairness

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Mathieu Molina, Patrick Loiseau


Discrimination in machine learning often arises along multiple dimensions (a.k.a. protected attributes); it is then desirable to ensure \emph{intersectional fairness}---i.e., that no subgroup is discriminated against. It is known that ensuring \emph{marginal fairness} for every dimension independently is not sufficient in general. Due to the exponential number of subgroups, however, directly measuring intersectional fairness from data is impossible. In this paper, our primary goal is to understand in detail the relationship between marginal and intersectional fairness through statistical analysis. We first identify a set of sufficient conditions under which an exact relationship can be obtained. Then, we prove bounds (easily computable through marginal fairness and other meaningful statistical quantities) in high-probability on intersectional fairness in the general case. Beyond their descriptive value, we show that these theoretical bounds can be leveraged to derive a heuristic improving the approximation and bounds of intersectional fairness by choosing, in a relevant manner, protected attributes for which we describe intersectional subgroups. Finally, we test the performance of our approximations and bounds on real and synthetic data-sets.