B-Learner: Quasi-Oracle Bounds on Heterogeneous Causal Effects Under Hidden Confounding
Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 202:26599-26618, 2023.
Estimating heterogeneous treatment effects from observational data is a crucial task across many fields, helping policy and decision-makers take better actions. There has been recent progress on robust and efficient methods for estimating the conditional average treatment effect (CATE) function, but these methods often do not take into account the risk of hidden confounding, which could arbitrarily and unknowingly bias any causal estimate based on observational data. We propose a meta-learner called the B-Learner, which can efficiently learn sharp bounds on the CATE function under limits on the level of hidden confounding. We derive the B-Learner by adapting recent results for sharp and valid bounds of the average treatment effect (Dorn et al., 2021) into the framework given by Kallus & Oprescu (2023) for robust and model-agnostic learning of conditional distributional treatment effects. The B-Learner can use any function estimator such as random forests and deep neural networks, and we prove its estimates are valid, sharp, efficient, and have a quasi-oracle property with respect to the constituent estimators under more general conditions than existing methods. Semi-synthetic experimental comparisons validate the theoretical findings, and we use real-world data demonstrate how the method might be used in practice.