Title: Causal influence, causal effects, and path analysis in the presence of intermediate confounding
Authors: Ivan Diaz - NYU Langone Health (United States) [presenting]
Abstract: Recent approaches to causal inference have focused on the identification and estimation of causal effects, defined as (properties of) the distribution of counterfactual outcomes under hypothetical actions that alter the nodes of a graphical model. We explore an alternative approach using the concept of causal influence, defined through operations that alter the information propagated through the edges of a directed acyclic graph. Causal influence may be more useful than causal effects in settings in which interventions on the causal agents are infeasible or of no substantive interest, for example, when considering gender, race, or genetics as a causal agent. Furthermore, the proposed ``information transfer'' interventions allow us to solve a long-standing problem in causal mediation analysis, namely the non-parametric identification of path-specific effects in the presence of treatment-induced mediator-outcome confounding. We propose efficient non-parametric estimators for a covariance version of the proposed causal influence measures, using data-adaptive regression coupled with semi-parametric efficiency theory to address model misspecification bias while retaining root-n-consistency and asymptotic normality. We illustrate the use of our methods in two examples using publicly available data.