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Loss Minimization and Parameter Estimation with Heavy Tails

Daniel Hsu, Sivan Sabato; 17(18):1−40, 2016.


This work studies applications and generalizations of a simple estimation technique that provides exponential concentration under heavy-tailed distributions, assuming only bounded low- order moments. We show that the technique can be used for approximate minimization of smooth and strongly convex losses, and specifically for least squares linear regression. For instance, our $d$-dimensional estimator requires just $\tilde{O}(d\log(1/\delta))$ random samples to obtain a constant factor approximation to the optimal least squares loss with probability $1-\delta$, without requiring the covariates or noise to be bounded or subgaussian. We provide further applications to sparse linear regression and low-rank covariance matrix estimation with similar allowances on the noise and covariate distributions. The core technique is a generalization of the median-of-means estimator to arbitrary metric spaces.

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