Published on Sat Dec 15 2018

Causal Identification under Markov Equivalence

Amin Jaber, Jiji Zhang, Elias Bareinboim

Assessing the magnitude of cause-and-effect relations is one of the central challenges found throughout the empirical sciences. In many practical settings, the knowledge available for the researcher is not strong enough so as to specify a unique causal graph.

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Abstract

Assessing the magnitude of cause-and-effect relations is one of the central challenges found throughout the empirical sciences. The problem of identification of causal effects is concerned with determining whether a causal effect can be computed from a combination of observational data and substantive knowledge about the domain under investigation, which is formally expressed in the form of a causal graph. In many practical settings, however, the knowledge available for the researcher is not strong enough so as to specify a unique causal graph. Another line of investigation attempts to use observational data to learn a qualitative description of the domain called a Markov equivalence class, which is the collection of causal graphs that share the same set of observed features. In this paper, we marry both approaches and study the problem of causal identification from an equivalence class, represented by a partial ancestral graph (PAG). We start by deriving a set of graphical properties of PAGs that are carried over to its induced subgraphs. We then develop an algorithm to compute the effect of an arbitrary set of variables on an arbitrary outcome set. We show that the algorithm is strictly more powerful than the current state of the art found in the literature.

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