Assessing External Validity Over Worst-Case Subpopulations
Hongseok Namkoong (Columbia University)
Study populations are typically sampled from limited points in space and time, and marginalized groups are underrepresented. To assess the external validity of randomized and observational studies, we propose and evaluate the worst-case treatment effect (WTE) across all subpopulations of a given size, which guarantees positive findings remain valid over subpopulations. We develop a semiparametrically efficient estimator for the WTE that analyzes the external validity of the augmented inverse propensity weighted estimator for the average treatment effect. Our cross-fitting procedure leverages flexible nonparametric and machine learning-based estimates of nuisance parameters and is a regular root-n estimator even when nuisance estimates converge more slowly. On real examples where external validity is of core concern, our proposed framework guards against brittle findings that are invalidated by unanticipated population shifts.