Planning to Fairly Allocate: Probabilistic Fairness in the Restless Bandit Setting

14 Jun 2021  ·  Christine Herlihy, Aviva Prins, Aravind Srinivasan, John P. Dickerson ·

Restless and collapsing bandits are often used to model budget-constrained resource allocation in settings where arms have action-dependent transition probabilities, such as the allocation of health interventions among patients. However, state-of-the-art Whittle-index-based approaches to this planning problem either do not consider fairness among arms, or incentivize fairness without guaranteeing it. We thus introduce ProbFair, a probabilistically fair policy that maximizes total expected reward and satisfies the budget constraint while ensuring a strictly positive lower bound on the probability of being pulled at each timestep. We evaluate our algorithm on a real-world application, where interventions support continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy adherence among patients, as well as on a broader class of synthetic transition matrices. We find that ProbFair preserves utility while providing fairness guarantees.

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