Double Machine Learning for Treatment and Causal Parameters

Mar 08 (Wednesday) at 2pm GHC-8102

Speaker: Edward Kennedy

Abstract: Most modern supervised statistical/machine learning (ML) methods are explicitly designed to solve prediction problems very well. Achieving this goal does not imply that these methods automatically deliver good estimators of causal parameters. Examples of such parameters include individual regression coefficients, average treatment effects, average lifts, and demand or supply elasticities. In fact, estimates of such causal parameters obtained via naively plugging ML estimators into estimating equations for such parameters can behave very poorly due to the regularization bias. Fortunately, this regularization bias can be removed by solving auxiliary prediction problems via ML tools. Specifically, we can form an orthogonal score for the target low-dimensional parameter by combining auxiliary and main ML predictions. The score is then used to build a de-biased estimator of the target parameter which typically will converge at the fastest possible 1/root(n) rate and be approximately unbiased and normal, and from which valid confidence intervals for these parameters of interest may be constructed. The resulting method thus could be called a "double/de-biased ML" method because it relies on estimating primary and auxiliary predictive models to overcome regularization biases. In order to avoid overfitting, our construction also makes use of the K-fold sample splitting, which we call cross-fitting. This allows us to use a very broad set of ML predictive methods in solving the auxiliary and main prediction problems, such as random forest, lasso, ridge, deep neural nets, boosted trees, as well as various hybrids and aggregators of these methods.