Upcoming RMME/STAT Colloquium (9/9): Kosuke Imai, “Experimental Evaluation of Algorithm-Assisted Human Decision-Making: Application to Pretrial Public Safety Assessment”

RMME/STAT Joint Colloquium

Experimental Evaluation of Algorithm-Assisted Human Decision-Making: Application to Pretrial Public Safety Assessment

Dr. Kosuke Imai
Harvard University

Friday, September 9, at 11:00AM ET


Despite an increasing reliance on fully-automated algorithmic decision-making in our day-to-day lives, human beings still make highly consequential decisions. As frequently seen in business, healthcare, and public policy, recommendations produced by algorithms are provided to human decision-makers to guide their decisions. While there exists a fast-growing literature evaluating the bias and fairness of such algorithmic recommendations, an overlooked question is whether they help humans make better decisions. We develop a general statistical methodology for experimentally evaluating the causal impacts of algorithmic recommendations on human decisions. We also show how to examine whether algorithmic recommendations improve the fairness of human decisions and derive the optimal decision rules under various settings. We apply the proposed methodology to preliminary data from the first-ever randomized controlled trial that evaluates the pretrial Public Safety Assessment (PSA) in the criminal justice system. A goal of the PSA is to help judges decide which arrested individuals should be released. On the basis of the preliminary data available, we find that providing the PSA to the judge has little overall impact on the judge’s decisions and subsequent arrestee behavior. Our analysis, however, yields some potentially suggestive evidence that the PSA may help avoid unnecessarily harsh decisions for female arrestees regardless of their risk levels while it encourages the judge to make stricter decisions for male arrestees who are deemed to be risky. In terms of fairness, the PSA appears to increase an existing gender difference while having little effect on any racial differences in judges’ decisions. Finally, we find that the PSA’s recommendations might be unnecessarily severe unless the cost of a new crime is sufficiently high.


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