Bless and curse of smoothness and phase transitions in nonparametric regressions: a nonasymptotic perspective

12/07/2021
by   Ying Zhu, et al.
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When the regression function belongs to the standard smooth classes consisting of univariate functions with derivatives up to the (γ+1)th order bounded by a common constant everywhere or a.e., it is well known that the minimax optimal rate of convergence in mean squared error (MSE) is (σ^2/n)^2γ+2/2γ+3 when γ is finite and the sample size n→∞. From a nonasymptotic viewpoint that considers finite n, this paper shows that: for the standard Hölder and Sobolev classes, the minimax optimal rate is σ^2(γ∨1)/n when n/σ^2≾(γ∨1)^2γ+3 and (σ^2/n)^2γ+2/2γ+3 when n/σ^2≿(γ∨1)^2γ+3. To establish these results, we derive upper and lower bounds on the covering and packing numbers for the generalized Hölder class where the kth (k=0,...,γ) derivative is bounded from above by a parameter R_k and the γth derivative is R_γ+1-Lipschitz (and also for the generalized ellipsoid class of smooth functions). Our bounds sharpen the classical metric entropy results for the standard classes, and give the general dependence on γ and R_k. By deriving the minimax optimal MSE rates under R_k=1, R_k≤(k-1)! and R_k=k! (with the latter two cases motivated in our introduction) with the help of our new entropy bounds, we show a couple of interesting results that cannot be shown with the existing entropy bounds in the literature. For the Hölder class of d-variate functions, our result suggests that the classical asymptotic rate (σ^2/n)^2γ+2/2γ+2+d could be an underestimate of the MSE in finite samples.

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