Rigorous Guarantees for Tyler’s M-Estimator via Quantum Expansion
Proceedings of Thirty Third Conference on Learning Theory, PMLR 125:1601-1632, 2020.
Estimating the shape of an elliptical distribution is a fundamental problem in statistics. One estimator for the shape matrix, Tyler’s M-estimator, has been shown to have many appealing asymptotic properties. It performs well in numerical experiments and can be quickly computed in practice by a simple iterative procedure. Despite the many years the estimator has been studied in the statistics community, there was neither a non-asymptotic bound on the rate of the estimator nor a proof that the iterative procedure converges in polynomially many steps. Here we observe a surprising connection between Tyler’s M-estimator and operator scaling, which has been intensively studied in recent years in part because of its connections to the Brascamp-Lieb inequality in analysis. We use this connection, together with novel results on quantum expanders, to show that Tyler’s M-estimator has the optimal rate up to factors logarithmic in the dimension, and that in the generative model the iterative procedure has a linear convergence rate even without regularization.