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Hölder Bounds for Sensitivity Analysis in Causal Reasoning
Serge Assaad · Shuxi Zeng · Henry Pfister · Fan Li · Lawrence Carin

We examine interval estimation of the effect of a treatment T on an outcome Y given the existence of an unobserved confounder U. Using Hölder's inequality, we derive a set of bounds on the confounding bias |E[Y|T=t]-E[Y|do(T=t)]| based on the degree of unmeasured confounding (i.e., the strength of the connection U->T, and the strength of U->Y). These bounds are tight either when U⊥T or U⊥Y | T (when there is no unobserved confounding). We focus on a special case of this bound depending on the total variation distance between the distributions p(U) and p(U|T=t), as well as the maximum (over all possible values of U) deviation of the conditional expected outcome E[Y|U=u,T=t] from the average expected outcome E[Y|T=t]. We discuss possible calibration strategies for this bound to get interval estimates for treatment effects, and experimentally validate the bound using synthetic and semi-synthetic datasets.

Author Information

Serge Assaad (Duke University)
Shuxi Zeng (Duke University)
Henry Pfister (Duke University)
Fan Li (Duke University)
Lawrence Carin (Duke)

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