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Offline Multi-Action Policy Learning: Generalization and Optimization

Zhengyuan Zhou, Susan Athey and Stefan Wager

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Abstract: In many settings, a decision-maker wishes to learn a rule, or policy, that maps from observable characteristics of an individual to an action. Examples include selecting offers, prices, advertisements, or emails to send to consumers, as well as the problem of determining which medication to prescribe to a patient. While there is a growing body of literature devoted to this problem, most existing results are focused on the case where data comes from a randomized experiment, and further, there are only two possible actions, such as giving a drug to a patient or not. In this paper, we study the offline multi-action policy learning problem with observational data and where the policy may need to respect budget constraints or belong to a restricted policy class such as decision trees. We build on the theory of efficient semi-parametric inference in order to propose and implement a policy learning algorithm that achieves asymptotically minimax-optimal regret. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first result of this type in the multi-action setup, and it provides a substantial performance improvement over the existing learning algorithms. We then consider additional computational challenges that arise in implementing our method for the case where the policy is restricted to take the form of a decision tree. We propose two different approaches, one using a mixed integer program formulation and the other using a tree-search based algorithm.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cmp
Date: 2018-10, Revised 2018-11
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