Nonparametric causal mediation analysis for stochastic interventional (in)direct effects

Abstract

Causal mediation analysis has historically been limited in two important regards: (i) a focus has traditionally been placed on binary treatments and static interventions, and (ii) direct and indirect effect decompositions have been pursued that are only identifiable in the absence of intermediate confounders affected by treatment. We present a theoretical study of an (in)direct effect decom- position of the population intervention effect, defined by stochastic interventions jointly applied to the treatment and mediators. In contrast to existing proposals, our causal effects can be evaluated regardless of whether a treatment is categorical or continuous and remain well-defined even in the presence of intermediate confounders affected by treatment. Our (in)direct effects are identifiable without a restrictive assumption on cross-world counterfactual independencies, allowing for substantive conclusions drawn from them to be validated in randomized controlled trials. Beyond the novel effects introduced, we provide a careful study of nonparametric efficiency theory relevant for the construction of flexible, multiply robust estimators of our (in)direct effects, all the while avoiding undue restrictions induced by assuming parametric models of nuisance parameter functionals. To complement our nonparametric estimation strategy, we introduce inferential techniques for constructing confidence intervals and hypothesis tests, and discuss open source software implementing the proposed methodology.

Nima Hejazi
Nima Hejazi
PhD Candidate in Biostatistics

My research interests lie at the intersection of causal inference and machine learning, especially as applied to the statistical analysis of complex data from observational studies and experiments in the biomedical and health sciences.