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Compressible distributions for high-dimensional statistics

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5016-5034
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Theory
Volume58
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

Abstract

We develop a principled way of identifying probability distributions whose independent and identically distributed (iid) realizations are compressible, i.e., can be well-approximated as sparse. We focus on Gaussian random underdetermined linear regression (GULR) problems, where compressibility is known to ensure the success of estimators exploiting sparse regularization. We prove that many distributions revolving around maximum a posteriori (MAP) interpretation of sparse regularized estimators are in fact incompressible, in the limit of large problem sizes. A highlight is the Laplace distribution and $\ell^{1}$ regularized estimators such as the Lasso and Basis Pursuit denoising. To establish this result, we identify non-trivial undersampling regions in GULR where the simple least squares solution almost surely outperforms an oracle sparse solution, when the data is generated from the Laplace distribution. We provide simple rules of thumb to characterize classes of compressible (respectively incompressible) distributions based on their second and fourth moments. Generalized Gaussians and generalized Pareto distributions serve as running examples for concreteness.

    Research areas

  • Basis pursuit, Lasso, compressed sensing, compressible distribution, high-dimensional statistics, instance optimality

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