RawlsGCN: Towards Rawlsian Difference Principle on Graph Convolutional Network

The ACM Web Conference (TheWebConf)


Graph Convolutional Network (GCN) plays pivotal roles in many real-world applications. Despite the successes of GCN deployment, GCN often exhibits performance disparity with respect to node degrees, resulting in worse predictive accuracy for low-degree nodes. We formulate the problem of mitigating the degree-related performance disparity in GCN from the perspective of the Rawlsian difference principle, which is originated from the theory of distributive justice. Mathematically, we aim to balance the utility between low-degree nodes and high-degree nodes while minimizing the tasks-specific loss. Specifically, we reveal the root cause of this degree-related unfairness by analyzing the gradients of weight matrices in GCN. Guided by the gradients of weight matrices, we further propose a pre-processing method RawlsGCN-Graph and an in-processing method RawlsGCN-Grad that achieves fair predictive accuracy in low-degree nodes without modification on the GCN architecture or introduction of additional parameters. Extensive experiments on real-world graphs demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed RawlsGCN methods in significantly reducing degree-related bias while retaining comparable overall performance.

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