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Bio: Amanda Kube is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Division of Computational and Data Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis working with Dr. Sanmay Das in the Department of Computer Science and Dr. Patrick Fowler in the Brown School. She received her B.S. in Psychological and Brain Sciences and Mathematics with a concentration in Statistics from Washington University in St. Louis where she also received an M.S. in Data Analytics and Statistics. Her research interests involve the intersection of computation and the social sciences. Her current work combines machine learning and human decision-making to inform fair and efficient service allocations for homeless families.

Talk Title: Integrating Human Priorities and Data-Driven Improvements in Allocation of Scarce Homeless Services to Households in Need

Talk Abstract: Homelessness is a major public health issue in the United States that has gained visibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite efforts at the federal level, rates of homelessness are not decreasing. Homeless services are a scarce public resource and current allocation systems have not been thoroughly investigated. Algorithmic techniques excel at modeling complex interactions between features and therefore have potential to model effects of homeless services at the individual level. These models can reason counterfactually about the effects of different services on each household and resulting predictions can be used for matching households to services. The ability to model heterogeneity in treatment effects of services provides the potential for “precision public health” where allocation of services is based on data-driven predictions of which service will lead to better outcomes. I discuss the scarce resource allocation problem as it applies to homeless service delivery, and the ability to improve upon the current allocation system using algorithmic techniques. I compare prediction algorithms to each other as well as to the ability of the general public to make these decisions. As homeless services are scarce public goods, it is vital to ensure allocations are not only efficient, but fair and ethical. I discuss efforts to ensure fair decisions and to understand how people prioritize households who should receive scarce homeless services. I also discuss future work and next steps as well as policy implications.