Distributionally Robust Losses for Latent Covariate Mixtures

While modern large-scale datasets often consist of heterogeneous subpopulations---for example, multiple demographic groups or multiple text corpora---the standard practice of minimizing average loss fails to guarantee uniformly low losses across all subpopulations. We propose a convex procedure that controls the worst-case performance over all subpopulations of a given size. Our procedure comes with finite-sample (nonparametric) convergence guarantees on the worst-off subpopulation. Empirically, we observe on lexical similarity, wine quality, and recidivism prediction tasks that our worst-case procedure learns models that do well against unseen subpopulations.

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