The Annals of Statistics

Causal Dantzig: Fast inference in linear structural equation models with hidden variables under additive interventions

Dominik Rothenhäusler, Peter Bühlmann, and Nicolai Meinshausen

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Abstract

Causal inference is known to be very challenging when only observational data are available. Randomized experiments are often costly and impractical and in instrumental variable regression the number of instruments has to exceed the number of causal predictors. It was recently shown in Peters, Bühlmann and Meinshausen (2016) (J. R. Stat. Soc. Ser. B. Stat. Methodol. 78 947–1012) that causal inference for the full model is possible when data from distinct observational environments are available, exploiting that the conditional distribution of a response variable is invariant under the correct causal model. Two shortcomings of such an approach are the high computational effort for large-scale data and the assumed absence of hidden confounders. Here, we show that these two shortcomings can be addressed if one is willing to make a more restrictive assumption on the type of interventions that generate different environments. Thereby, we look at a different notion of invariance, namely inner-product invariance. By avoiding a computationally cumbersome reverse-engineering approach such as in Peters, Bühlmann and Meinshausen (2016), it allows for large-scale causal inference in linear structural equation models. We discuss identifiability conditions for the causal parameter and derive asymptotic confidence intervals in the low-dimensional setting. In the case of nonidentifiability, we show that the solution set of causal Dantzig has predictive guarantees under certain interventions. We derive finite-sample bounds in the high-dimensional setting and investigate its performance on simulated datasets.

Article information

Source
Ann. Statist., Volume 47, Number 3 (2019), 1688-1722.

Dates
Received: June 2017
Revised: April 2018
First available in Project Euclid: 13 February 2019

Permanent link to this document
https://projecteuclid.org/euclid.aos/1550026854

Digital Object Identifier
doi:10.1214/18-AOS1732

Mathematical Reviews number (MathSciNet)
MR3911127

Zentralblatt MATH identifier
07053523

Subjects
Primary: 62J99: None of the above, but in this section 62H99: None of the above, but in this section
Secondary: 68T99: None of the above, but in this section

Keywords
Causal inference structural equation models high-dimensional consistency

Citation

Rothenhäusler, Dominik; Bühlmann, Peter; Meinshausen, Nicolai. Causal Dantzig: Fast inference in linear structural equation models with hidden variables under additive interventions. Ann. Statist. 47 (2019), no. 3, 1688--1722. doi:10.1214/18-AOS1732. https://projecteuclid.org/euclid.aos/1550026854


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Supplemental materials

  • Supplement to “Causal Dantzig: Fast inference in linear structural equation models with hidden variables under additive interventions”. The Supplementary Material contains detailed technical proofs.