A General Framework for Symmetric Property Estimation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Moses Charikar, Kirankumar Shiragur, Aaron Sidford


In this paper we provide a general framework for estimating symmetric properties of distributions from i.i.d. samples. For a broad class of symmetric properties we identify the {\em easy} region where empirical estimation works and the {\em difficult} region where more complex estimators are required. We show that by approximately computing the profile maximum likelihood (PML) distribution \cite{ADOS16} in this difficult region we obtain a symmetric property estimation framework that is sample complexity optimal for many properties in a broader parameter regime than previous universal estimation approaches based on PML. The resulting algorithms based on these \emph{pseudo PML distributions} are also more practical.