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Predictive Multiplicity in Classification

Charles Marx · Flavio Calmon · Berk Ustun

Keywords: [ Fairness, Equity and Justice ] [ Accountability, Transparency and Interpretability ]


Prediction problems often admit competing models that perform almost equally well. This effect challenges key assumptions in machine learning when competing models assign conflicting predictions. In this paper, we define predictive multiplicity as the ability of a prediction problem to admit competing models with conflicting predictions. We introduce measures to evaluate the severity of predictive multiplicity, and develop integer programming tools to compute these measures exactly for linear classification problems. We apply our tools to measure predictive multiplicity in recidivism prediction problems. Our results show that real-world datasets may admit competing models that assign wildly conflicting predictions, and motivate the need to report predictive multiplicity in model development.

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