Instrumental Variables in Causal Inference and Machine Learning: A Survey

12 Dec 2022  ·  Anpeng Wu, Kun Kuang, Ruoxuan Xiong, Fei Wu ·

Causal inference is the process of using assumptions, study designs, and estimation strategies to draw conclusions about the causal relationships between variables based on data. This allows researchers to better understand the underlying mechanisms at work in complex systems and make more informed decisions. In many settings, we may not fully observe all the confounders that affect both the treatment and outcome variables, complicating the estimation of causal effects. To address this problem, a growing literature in both causal inference and machine learning proposes to use Instrumental Variables (IV). This paper serves as the first effort to systematically and comprehensively introduce and discuss the IV methods and their applications in both causal inference and machine learning. First, we provide the formal definition of IVs and discuss the identification problem of IV regression methods under different assumptions. Second, we categorize the existing work on IV methods into three streams according to the focus on the proposed methods, including two-stage least squares with IVs, control function with IVs, and evaluation of IVs. For each stream, we present both the classical causal inference methods, and recent developments in the machine learning literature. Then, we introduce a variety of applications of IV methods in real-world scenarios and provide a summary of the available datasets and algorithms. Finally, we summarize the literature, discuss the open problems and suggest promising future research directions for IV methods and their applications. We also develop a toolkit of IVs methods reviewed in this survey at

PDF Abstract


Results from the Paper

  Submit results from this paper to get state-of-the-art GitHub badges and help the community compare results to other papers.