Fair Machine Learning Under Partial Compliance

by   Jessica Dai, et al.

Typically, fair machine learning research focuses on a single decisionmaker and assumes that the underlying population is stationary. However, many of the critical domains motivating this work are characterized by competitive marketplaces with many decisionmakers. Realistically, we might expect only a subset of them to adopt any non-compulsory fairness-conscious policy, a situation that political philosophers call partial compliance. This possibility raises important questions: how does the strategic behavior of decision subjects in partial compliance settings affect the allocation outcomes? If k of employers were to voluntarily adopt a fairness-promoting intervention, should we expect k adoption, or will the dynamics of partial compliance wash out the hoped-for benefits? How might adopting a global (versus local) perspective impact the conclusions of an auditor? In this paper, we propose a simple model of an employment market, leveraging simulation as a tool to explore the impact of both interaction effects and incentive effects on outcomes and auditing metrics. Our key findings are that at equilibrium: (1) partial compliance (k of employers) can result in far less than proportional (k the full compliance outcomes; (2) the gap is more severe when fair employers match global (vs local) statistics; (3) choices of local vs global statistics can paint dramatically different pictures of the performance vis-a-vis fairness desiderata of compliant versus non-compliant employers; and (4) partial compliance to local parity measures can induce extreme segregation.


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