Trading-off price for data quality to achieve fair online allocation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Mathieu Molina, Nicolas Gast, Patrick Loiseau, Vianney Perchet


We consider the problem of online allocation subject to a long-term fairness penalty. Contrary to existing works, however, we do not assume that the decision-maker observes the protected attributes---which is often unrealistic in practice. Instead they can purchase data that help estimate them from sources of different quality; and hence reduce the fairness penalty at some cost. We model this problem as a multi-armed bandit problem where each arm corresponds to the choice of a data source, coupled with the fair online allocation problem. We propose an algorithm that jointly solves both problems and show that it has a regret bounded by $\mathcal{O}(\sqrt{T})$. A key difficulty is that the rewards received by selecting a source are correlated by the fairness penalty, which leads to a need for randomization (despite a stochastic setting). Our algorithm takes into account contextual information available before the source selection, and can adapt to many different fairness notions.