Structural Group Unfairness: Measurement and Mitigation by means of the Effective Resistance

Authors: Arnaiz-Rodríguez, A. , Curto, G. , Oliver, N.

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Publication: WWW 2024 Workshop on Trustworthy Learnin on Graphs (TrustLOG), 2024
PDF: Click here for the PDF paper
A preprint has been published at arXiv:2305.03223 on May 5th, 2023.

Social networks contribute to the distribution of social capital, defined as the relationships, norms of trust and reciprocity within a community or society that facilitate cooperation and collective action. Social capital exists in the relations among individuals, such that better positioned members in a social network benefit from faster access to diverse information and higher influence on information dissemination. A variety of methods have been proposed in the literature to measure social capital at an individual level. However, there is a lack of methods to quantify social capital at a group level, which is particularly important when the groups are defined on the grounds of protected attributes. Furthermore, state-of-the-art approaches fail to model the role of long-range interactions between nodes in the network and their contributions to social capital. To fill this gap, we propose to measure the social capital of a group of nodes by means of their information flow and emphasize the importance of considering the whole network topology. Grounded in spectral graph theory, we introduce three effective resistance-based measures of group social capital, namely group isolation, group diameter and group control. We denote the social capital disparity among different groups in a network as structural group unfairness, and propose to mitigate it by means of a budgeted edge augmentation heuristic that systematically increases the social capital of the most disadvantaged group. In experiments on real networks, we uncover significant levels of structural group unfairness when using gender as the protected attribute, with females being the most disadvantaged group in comparison to males. We also illustrate how our proposed edge augmentation approach is able to not only effectively mitigate the structural group unfairness but also increase the social capital of all groups in the network.

Accepted at WWW 2024 workshop on Trustworthy Learnin on Graphs (TrustLOG).

This work was supported by the European Commission under Horizon Europe Programme, grant number 101120237 - ELIAS, by Intel corporation, a nominal grant received at the ELLIS Unit Alicante Foundation from the Regional Government of Valencia in Spain (Convenio Singular signed with Generalitat Valenciana, Conselleria de Innovación, Industria, Comercio y Turismo, Dirección General de Innovación) and a grant by the Banc Sabadell Foundation.