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Learning Linear Non-Gaussian Causal Models in the Presence of Latent Variables

Saber Salehkaleybar, AmirEmad Ghassami, Negar Kiyavash, Kun Zhang; 21(39):1−24, 2020.


We consider the problem of learning causal models from observational data generated by linear non-Gaussian acyclic causal models with latent variables. Without considering the effect of latent variables, the inferred causal relationships among the observed variables are often wrong. Under faithfulness assumption, we propose a method to check whether there exists a causal path between any two observed variables. From this information, we can obtain the causal order among the observed variables. The next question is whether the causal effects can be uniquely identified as well. We show that causal effects among observed variables cannot be identified uniquely under mere assumptions of faithfulness and non-Gaussianity of exogenous noises. However, we are able to propose an efficient method that identifies the set of all possible causal effects that are compatible with the observational data. We present additional structural conditions on the causal graph under which causal effects among observed variables can be determined uniquely. Furthermore, we provide necessary and sufficient graphical conditions for unique identification of the number of variables in the system. Experiments on synthetic data and real-world data show the effectiveness of our proposed algorithm for learning causal models.

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