Probabilistic Fair Clustering

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Seyed Esmaeili, Brian Brubach, Leonidas Tsepenekas, John Dickerson


In clustering problems, a central decision-maker is given a complete metric graph over vertices and must provide a clustering of vertices that minimizes some objective function. In fair clustering problems, vertices are endowed with a color (e.g., membership in a group), and the requirements of a valid clustering might also include the representation of colors in the solution. Prior work in fair clustering assumes complete knowledge of group membership. In this paper, we generalize this by assuming imperfect knowledge of group membership through probabilistic assignments, and present algorithms in this more general setting with approximation ratio guarantees. We also address the problem of "metric membership", where group membership has a notion of order and distance. Experiments are conducted using our proposed algorithms as well as baselines to validate our approach, and also surface nuanced concerns when group membership is not known deterministically.