Universal adaptability

November 18, 2023
The gold-standard approaches for gleaning statistically valid conclusions from data involve random sampling from the population. Collecting properly randomized data, however, can be challenging, so modern statistical methods, including propensity score reweighting, aim to enable valid inferences when random sampling is not feasible. We put forth an approach for making inferences based on available data from a source population that may differ in composition in unknown ways from an eventual target population. Whereas propensity scoring requires a separate estimation procedure for each different target population, we show how to build a single estimator, based on source data alone, that allows for efficient and accurate estimates on any downstream target data. We demonstrate, theoretically and empirically, that our target-independent approach to inference, which we dub “universal adaptability,” is competitive with target-specific approaches that rely on propensity scoring. Our approach builds on a surprising connection between the problem of inferences in unspecified target populations and the multicalibration problem, studied in the burgeoning field of algorithmic fairness. We show how the multicalibration framework can be employed to yield valid inferences from a single source population across a diverse set of target populations.
Supplementary Materials