A Moral Framework for Understanding of Fair ML through Economic Models of Equality of Opportunity

Proceedings of the Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency 1 (2019)
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Abstract

We map the recently proposed notions of algorithmic fairness to economic models of Equality of opportunity (EOP)---an extensively studied ideal of fairness in political philosophy. We formally show that through our conceptual mapping, many existing definition of algorithmic fairness, such as predictive value parity and equality of odds, can be interpreted as special cases of EOP. In this respect, our work serves as a unifying moral framework for understanding existing notions of algorithmic fairness. Most importantly, this framework allows us to explicitly spell out the moral assumptions underlying each notion of fairness, and interpret recent fairness impossibility results in a new light. Last but not least and inspired by luck egalitarian models of EOP, we propose a new family of measures for algorithmic fairness. We illustrate our proposal empirically and show that employing a measure of algorithmic (un)fairness when its underlying moral assumptions are not satisfied, can have devastating consequences for the disadvantaged group's welfare.

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