Falsification of Internal and External Validity in Observational Studies via Conditional Moment Restrictions
Proceedings of The 26th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, PMLR 206:5869-5898, 2023.
Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT)s are relied upon to assess new treatments, but suffer from limited power to guide personalized treatment decisions. On the other hand, observational (i.e., non-experimental) studies have large and diverse populations, but are prone to various biases (e.g. residual confounding). To safely leverage the strengths of observational studies, we focus on the problem of falsification, whereby RCTs are used to validate causal effect estimates learned from observational data. In particular, we show that, given data from both an RCT and an observational study, assumptions on internal and external validity have an observable, testable implication in the form of a set of Conditional Moment Restrictions (CMRs). Further, we show that expressing these CMRs with respect to the causal effect, or “causal contrast”, as opposed to individual counterfactual means, provides a more reliable falsification test. In addition to giving guarantees on the asymptotic properties of our test, we demonstrate superior power and type I error of our approach on semi-synthetic and real world datasets. Our approach is interpretable, allowing a practitioner to visualize which subgroups in the population lead to falsification of an observational study.