Reconsidering Generative Objectives For Counterfactual Reasoning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Danni Lu, Chenyang Tao, Junya Chen, Fan Li, Feng Guo, Lawrence Carin


There has been recent interest in exploring generative goals for counterfactual reasoning, such as individualized treatment effect (ITE) estimation. However, existing solutions often fail to address issues that are unique to causal inference, such as covariate balancing and (infeasible) counterfactual validation. As a step towards more flexible, scalable and accurate ITE estimation, we present a novel generative Bayesian estimation framework that integrates representation learning, adversarial matching and causal estimation. By appealing to the Robinson decomposition, we derive a reformulated variational bound that explicitly targets the causal effect estimation rather than specific predictive goals. Our procedure acknowledges the uncertainties in representation and solves a Fenchel mini-max game to resolve the representation imbalance for better counterfactual generalization, justified by new theory. Further, the latent variable formulation employed enables robustness to unobservable latent confounders, extending the scope of its applicability. The utility of the proposed solution is demonstrated via an extensive set of tests against competing solutions, both under various simulation setups and to real-world datasets, with encouraging results reported.