Cumulative deviation of a subpopulation from the full population

Journal of Big Data


Assessing equity in treatment of a subpopulation often involves assigning numerical “scores” to all individuals in the full population such that similar individuals get similar scores; matching via propensity scores or appropriate covariates is common, for example. Given such scores, individuals with similar scores may or may not attain similar outcomes independent of the individuals’ memberships in the subpopulation. The traditional graphical methods for visualizing inequities are known as “reliability diagrams” or “calibrations plots,” which bin the scores into a partition of all possible values, and for each bin plot both the average outcomes for only individuals in the subpopulation as well as the average outcomes for all individuals; comparing the graph for the subpopulation with that for the full population gives some sense of how the averages for the subpopulation deviate from the averages for the full population. Unfortunately, real data sets contain only finitely many observations, limiting the usable resolution of the bins, and so the conventional methods can obscure important variations due to the binning. Fortunately, plotting cumulative deviation of the subpopulation from the full population as proposed in this paper sidesteps the problematic coarse binning. The cumulative plots encode subpopulation deviation directly as the slopes of secant lines for the graphs. Slope is easy to perceive even when the constant offsets of the secant lines are irrelevant. The cumulative approach avoids binning that smooths over deviations of the subpopulation from the full population. Such cumulative aggregation furnishes both high-resolution graphical methods and simple scalar summary statistics (analogous to those of Kuiper and of Kolmogorov and Smirnov used in statistical significance testing for comparing probability distributions).

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