A Causal Bayesian Networks Viewpoint on Fairness

Chiappa, Silvia; Isaac, William S.

We offer a graphical interpretation of unfairness in a dataset as the presence of an unfair causal effect of the sensitive attribute in the causal Bayesian network representing the data-generation mechanism. We use this viewpoint to revisit the recent debate surrounding the COMPAS pretrial risk assessment tool and, more generally, to point out that fairness evaluation on a model requires careful considerations on the patterns of unfairness underlying the training data. We show that causal Bayesian networks provide us with a powerful tool to measure unfairness in a dataset and to design fair models in complex unfairness scenarios.