Learning Deep Features in Instrumental Variable Regression

Abstract

Instrumental variable (IV) regression is a standard strategy for learning causal relationships between confounded treatment and outcome variables by utilizing an instrumental variable, which is conditionally independent of the outcome given the treatment. In classical IV regression, learning proceeds in two stages: stage 1 performs linear regression from the instrument to the treatment; and stage 2 performs linear regression from the treatment to the outcome, conditioned on the instrument. We propose a novel method, {\it deep feature instrumental variable regression (DFIV)}, to address the case where relations between instruments, treatments, and outcomes may be nonlinear. In this case, deep neural nets are trained to define informative nonlinear features on the instruments and treatments. We propose an alternating training regime for these features to ensure good end-to-end performance when composing stages 1 and 2, thus obtaining highly flexible feature maps in a computationally efficient manner. DFIV outperforms recent state-of-the-art methods on challenging IV benchmarks, including settings involving high dimensional image data. DFIV also exhibits competitive performance in off-policy policy evaluation for reinforcement learning, which can be understood as an IV regression task.

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