Front-door Adjustment Beyond Markov Equivalence with Limited Graph Knowledge

Abhin Shah
Murat Kocaoglu
Neural Information Processing Systems 2023 (NeurIPS 2023)(2023) (to appear)


Causal effect estimation from data typically requires assumptions about the cause-effect relations either explicitly in the form of a causal graph structure within the Pearlian framework, or implicitly in terms of (conditional) independence statements between counterfactual variables within the potential outcomes framework. When the treatment variable and the outcome variable are confounded, front-door adjustment is an important special case where, given the graph, causal effect of the treatment on the target can be estimated using post-treatment variables. However, the exact formula for front-door adjustment depends on the structure of the graph, which is difficult to learn in practice. In this work, we provide testable conditional independence statements to compute the causal effect using front-door-like adjustment without knowing the graph under limited structural side information. We show that our method is applicable in scenarios where knowing the Markov equivalence class is not sufficient for causal effect estimation. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method on a class of random graphs as well as real causal fairness benchmarks.