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On the advantages of distinguishing between predictive and allocative fairness in algorithmic decision-making

Beigang, Fabian (2022) On the advantages of distinguishing between predictive and allocative fairness in algorithmic decision-making. Minds and Machines, 32 (4). 655 – 682. ISSN 0924-6495

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s11023-022-09615-9


The problem of algorithmic fairness is typically framed as the problem of finding a unique formal criterion that guarantees that a given algorithmic decision-making procedure is morally permissible. In this paper, I argue that this is conceptually misguided and that we should replace the problem with two sub-problems. If we examine how most state-of-the-art machine learning systems work, we notice that there are two distinct stages in the decision-making process. First, a prediction of a relevant property is made. Secondly, a decision is taken based (at least partly) on this prediction. These two stages have different aims: the prediction is aimed at accuracy, while the decision is aimed at allocating a given good in a way that maximizes some context-relative utility measure. Correspondingly, two different fairness issues can arise. First, predictions could be biased in discriminatory ways. This means that the predictions contain systematic errors for a specific group of individuals. Secondly, the system’s decisions could result in an allocation of goods that is in tension with the principles of distributive justice. These two fairness issues are distinct problems that require different types of solutions. I here provide a formal framework to address both issues and argue that this way of conceptualizing them resolves some of the paradoxes present in the discussion of algorithmic fairness.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2022 10:48
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2023 06:42

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