The Effect of Model Size on Worst-Group Generalization

Overparameterization is shown to result in poor test accuracy on rare subgroups under a variety of settings where subgroup information is known. To gain a more complete picture, we consider the case where subgroup information is unknown. We investigate the effect of model size on worst-group generalization under empirical risk minimization (ERM) across a wide range of settings, varying: 1) architectures (ResNet, VGG, or BERT), 2) domains (vision or natural language processing), 3) model size (width or depth), and 4) initialization (with pre-trained or random weights). Our systematic evaluation reveals that increasing model size does not hurt, and may help, worst-group test performance under ERM across all setups. In particular, increasing pre-trained model size consistently improves performance on Waterbirds and MultiNLI. We advise practitioners to use larger pre-trained models when subgroup labels are unknown.

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