A Justice-Based Framework for the Analysis of Algorithmic Fairness-Utility Trade-Offs

Authors: Hertweck, C., Baumann, J., Loi, M., Viganò, E., & Heitz, C.

Organisation / network: arXiv.

year: 2022


In prediction-based decision-making systems, different perspectives can be at odds: The short-term business goals of the decision makers are often in conflict with the decision subjects’ wish to be treated fairly. Balancing these two perspectives is a question of values. However, these values are often hidden in the technicalities of the implementation of the decision-making system. In this paper, we propose a framework to make these value-laden choices clearly visible. We focus on a setting in which we want to find decision rules that balance the perspective of the decision maker and of the decision subjects. We provide an approach to formalize both perspectives, i.e., to assess the utility of the decision maker and the fairness towards the decision subjects. In both cases, the idea is to elicit values from decision makers and decision subjects that are then turned into something measurable. For the fairness evaluation, we build on well-known theories of distributive justice and on the algorithmic literature to ask what a fair distribution of utility (or welfare) looks like. This allows us to derive a fairness score that we then compare to the decision maker’s utility. As we focus on a setting in which we are given a trained model and have to choose a decision rule, we use the concept of Pareto efficiency to compare decision rules. Our proposed framework can both guide the implementation of a decision-making system and help with audits, as it allows us to resurface the values implemented in a decision-making system.

Publication category : Business Reports