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Fairness in Selection Problems with Strategic Candidates


To better understand discriminations and the effect of affirmative actions in selection problems (e.g., college admission or hiring), a recent line of research proposed a model based on differential variance. This model assumes that the decision-maker has a noisy estimate of each candidate’s quality and puts forward the difference in the noise variances between different demographic groups as a key factor to explain discrimination. The literature on differential variance, however, does not consider the strategic behavior of candidates who can react to the selection procedure to improve their outcome, which is well-known to happen in many domains. In this paper, we study how the strategic aspect affects fairness in selection problems. We propose to model selection problems with strategic candidates as a contest game: A population of rational candidates compete by choosing an effort level to increase their quality. They incur a cost-of-effort but get a (random) quality whose expectation equals the chosen effort. A Bayesian decision-maker observes a noisy estimate of the quality of each candidate (with differential variance) and selects the fraction α of best candidates based on their posterior expected quality; each selected candidate receives a reward S. We characterize the (unique) equilibrium of this game in the different parameters’ regimes, both when the decision-maker is unconstrained and when they are constrained to respect the fairness notion of demographic parity. Our results reveal important impacts of the strategic behavior on the discrimination observed at equilibrium and allow us to understand the effect of imposing demographic parity in this context. In particular, we find that, in many cases, the results contrast with the non-strategic setting. We also find that, when the cost-of-effort depends on the demographic group (which is reasonable in many cases), then it entirely governs the observed discrimination (i.e., the noise becomes a second-order effect that does not have any impact on discrimination). Finally we find that imposing demographic parity can sometimes increase the quality of the selection at equilibrium; which surprisingly contrasts with the optimality of the Bayesian decision-maker in the non-strategic case. Our results give a new perspective on fairness in selection problems, relevant in many domains where strategic behavior is a reality.
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hal-03677966 , version 1 (25-05-2022)



Vitalii Emelianov, Nicolas Gast, Patrick Loiseau. Fairness in Selection Problems with Strategic Candidates. EC 2022 - 23th ACM Conference on Economics and Computation, Jul 2022, Boulder, Colorado, United States. pp.1-29, ⟨10.1145/3490486.3538287⟩. ⟨hal-03677966⟩
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