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Fair Data Representation for Machine Learning at the Pareto Frontier

Shizhou Xu, Thomas Strohmer; 24(331):1−63, 2023.


As machine learning powered decision-making becomes increasingly important in our daily lives, it is imperative to strive for fairness in the underlying data processing. We propose a pre-processing algorithm for fair data representation via which supervised learning results in estimations of the Pareto frontier between prediction error and statistical disparity. In particular, the present work applies the optimal affine transport to approach the post-processing Wasserstein barycenter characterization of the optimal fair $L^2$-objective supervised learning via a pre-processing data deformation. Furthermore, we show that the Wasserstein geodesics from the conditional (on sensitive information) distributions of the learning outcome to their barycenter characterize the Pareto frontier between $L^2$-loss and the average pairwise Wasserstein distance among sensitive groups on the learning outcome. Numerical simulations underscore the advantages: (1) the pre-processing step is compositive with arbitrary conditional expectation estimation supervised learning methods and unseen data; (2) the fair representation protects the sensitive information by limiting the inference capability of the remaining data with respect to the sensitive data; (3) the optimal affine maps are computationally efficient even for high-dimensional data.

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