Fairness with Overlapping Groups; a Probabilistic Perspective

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

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Forest Yang, Mouhamadou Cisse, Sanmi Koyejo


In algorithmically fair prediction problems, a standard goal is to ensure the equality of fairness metrics across multiple overlapping groups simultaneously. We reconsider this standard fair classification problem using a probabilistic population analysis, which, in turn, reveals the Bayes-optimal classifier. Our approach unifies a variety of existing group-fair classification methods and enables extensions to a wide range of non-decomposable multiclass performance metrics and fairness measures. The Bayes-optimal classifier further inspires consistent procedures for algorithmically fair classification with overlapping groups. On a variety of real datasets, the proposed approach outperforms baselines in terms of its fairness-performance tradeoff.