Exploring Transformer Backbones for Heterogeneous Treatment Effect EstimationDownload PDF

Published: 05 Dec 2022, Last Modified: 05 May 2023MLSW2022Readers: Everyone
Abstract: Previous works on Treatment Effect Estimation (TEE) are not in widespread use because they are predominantly theoretical, where strong parametric assumptions are made but untractable for practical application. Recent works use Multilayer Perceptron (MLP) for modeling casual relationships, however, MLPs lag far behind recent advances in ML methodology, which limits their applicability and generalizability. To extend beyond the single domain formulation and towards more realistic learning scenarios, we explore model design spaces beyond MLPs, i.e., transformer backbones, which provide flexibility where attention layers govern interactions among treatments and covariates to exploit structural similarities of potential outcomes for confounding control. Through careful model design, Transformers as Treatment Effect Estimators (TransTEE) is proposed. We show empirically that TransTEE can: (1) serve as a general-purpose treatment effect estimator which significantly outperforms competitive baselines on a variety of challenging TEE problems (e.g., discrete, continuous, structured, or dosage-associated treatments.) and is applicable to both when covariates are tabular and when they consist of structural data (e.g., texts, graphs); (2) yield multiple advantages: compatibility with propensity score modeling, parameter efficiency, robustness to continuous treatment value distribution shifts, explainable in covariate adjustment, and real-world utility in auditing pre-trained language models.
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