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FERMI: Fair Empirical Risk Minimization Via Exponential Rényi Mutual Information
Andrew Lowy · Rakesh Pavan · Sina Baharlouei · Meisam Razaviyayn · Ahmad Beirami
Despite the success of large-scale empirical risk minimization (ERM) at achieving high accuracy across a variety of machine learning tasks, fair ERM is hindered by the incompatibility of fairness constraints with stochastic optimization. In this paper, we propose the fair empirical risk minimization via exponential Rényi mutual information (FERMI) framework. FERMI is built on a stochastic estimator for exponential Rényi mutual information (ERMI), an information divergence measuring the degree of the dependence of predictions on sensitive attributes. Theoretically, we show that ERMI upper bounds existing popular fairness violation metrics, thus controlling ERMI provides guarantees on other commonly used violations, such as $L_\infty$. We derive an unbiased estimator for ERMI, which we use to derive the FERMI algorithm. We prove that FERMI converges for demographic parity, equalized odds, and equal opportunity notions of fairness in stochastic optimization. Empirically, we show that FERMI is amenable to large-scale problems with multiple (non-binary) sensitive attributes and non-binary targets. Extensive experiments show that FERMI achieves the most favorable tradeoffs between fairness violation and test accuracy across all tested setups compared with state-of-the-art baselines for demographic parity, equalized odds, equal opportunity. These benefits are especially significant for non-binary classification with large sensitive sets and small batch sizes, showcasing the effectiveness of the FERMI objective and the developed stochastic algorithm for solving it.

Author Information

Andrew Lowy (USC)
Rakesh Pavan (NITK)
Meisam Razaviyayn (University of southern California)
Ahmad Beirami (Facebook AI)

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