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Can nonexperts really emulate statistical learning methods? A comment on “The accuracy, fairness, and limits of predicting recidivismâ€

Kirk Bansak

Political Analysis, 2019, vol. 27, issue 3, 370-380

Abstract: Recent research has questioned the value of statistical learning methods for producing accurate predictions in the criminal justice context. Using results from respondents on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurkers) who were asked to predict recidivism, Dressel and Farid (2018) argue that nonexperts can achieve predictive accuracy and fairness on par with algorithmic approaches that employ statistical learning models. Analyzing the same data from the original study, this comment employs additional techniques and compares the quality of the predicted probabilities output from statistical learning procedures versus the MTurkers’ evaluations. The metrics presented indicate that statistical approaches do, in fact, outperform the nonexperts in important ways. Based on these new analyses, it is difficult to accept the conclusion presented in Dressel and Farid (2018) that their results “cast significant doubt on the entire effort of algorithmic recidivism prediction.â€

Date: 2019
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