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The Implicit Fairness Criterion of Unconstrained Learning

Lydia T. Liu · Max Simchowitz · Moritz Hardt

Pacific Ballroom #205

Keywords: [ Statistical Learning Theory ] [ Fairness ]


We clarify what fairness guarantees we can and cannot expect to follow from unconstrained machine learning. Specifically, we show that in many settings, unconstrained learning on its own implies group calibration, that is, the outcome variable is conditionally independent of group membership given the score. A lower bound confirms the optimality of our upper bound. Moreover, we prove that as the excess risk of the learned score decreases, the more strongly it violates separation and independence, two other standard fairness criteria. Our results challenge the view that group calibration necessitates an active intervention, suggesting that often we ought to think of it as a byproduct of unconstrained machine learning.

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