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December 2020 Singularity, misspecification and the convergence rate of EM
Raaz Dwivedi, Nhat Ho, Koulik Khamaru, Martin J. Wainwright, Michael I. Jordan, Bin Yu
Ann. Statist. 48(6): 3161-3182 (December 2020). DOI: 10.1214/19-AOS1924


A line of recent work has analyzed the behavior of the Expectation-Maximization (EM) algorithm in the well-specified setting, in which the population likelihood is locally strongly concave around its maximizing argument. Examples include suitably separated Gaussian mixture models and mixtures of linear regressions. We consider over-specified settings in which the number of fitted components is larger than the number of components in the true distribution. Such mis-specified settings can lead to singularity in the Fisher information matrix, and moreover, the maximum likelihood estimator based on $n$ i.i.d. samples in $d$ dimensions can have a nonstandard $\mathcal{O}((d/n)^{\frac{1}{4}})$ rate of convergence. Focusing on the simple setting of two-component mixtures fit to a $d$-dimensional Gaussian distribution, we study the behavior of the EM algorithm both when the mixture weights are different (unbalanced case), and are equal (balanced case). Our analysis reveals a sharp distinction between these two cases: in the former, the EM algorithm converges geometrically to a point at Euclidean distance of $\mathcal{O}((d/n)^{\frac{1}{2}})$ from the true parameter, whereas in the latter case, the convergence rate is exponentially slower, and the fixed point has a much lower $\mathcal{O}((d/n)^{\frac{1}{4}})$ accuracy. Analysis of this singular case requires the introduction of some novel techniques: in particular, we make use of a careful form of localization in the associated empirical process, and develop a recursive argument to progressively sharpen the statistical rate.


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Raaz Dwivedi. Nhat Ho. Koulik Khamaru. Martin J. Wainwright. Michael I. Jordan. Bin Yu. "Singularity, misspecification and the convergence rate of EM." Ann. Statist. 48 (6) 3161 - 3182, December 2020.


Received: 1 September 2019; Published: December 2020
First available in Project Euclid: 11 December 2020

MathSciNet: MR4185804
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/19-AOS1924

Primary: 62F15, 62G05
Secondary: 62G20

Rights: Copyright © 2020 Institute of Mathematical Statistics


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Vol.48 • No. 6 • December 2020
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