DeepMed: Semiparametric Causal Mediation Analysis with Debiased Deep Learning

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Siqi Xu, Lin Liu, Zhonghua Liu


Causal mediation analysis can unpack the black box of causality and is therefore a powerful tool for disentangling causal pathways in biomedical and social sciences, and also for evaluating machine learning fairness. To reduce bias for estimating Natural Direct and Indirect Effects in mediation analysis, we propose a new method called DeepMed that uses deep neural networks (DNNs) to cross-fit the infinite-dimensional nuisance functions in the efficient influence functions. We obtain novel theoretical results that our DeepMed method (1) can achieve semiparametric efficiency bound without imposing sparsity constraints on the DNN architecture and (2) can adapt to certain low dimensional structures of the nuisance functions, significantly advancing the existing literature on DNN-based semiparametric causal inference. Extensive synthetic experiments are conducted to support our findings and also expose the gap between theory and practice. As a proof of concept, we apply DeepMed to analyze two real datasets on machine learning fairness and reach conclusions consistent with previous findings.