Sparse PCA with Oracle Property

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27 (NIPS 2014)

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Quanquan Gu, Zhaoran Wang, Han Liu


In this paper, we study the estimation of the $k$-dimensional sparse principal subspace of covariance matrix $\Sigma$ in the high-dimensional setting. We aim to recover the oracle principal subspace solution, i.e., the principal subspace estimator obtained assuming the true support is known a priori. To this end, we propose a family of estimators based on the semidefinite relaxation of sparse PCA with novel regularizations. In particular, under a weak assumption on the magnitude of the population projection matrix, one estimator within this family exactly recovers the true support with high probability, has exact rank-$k$, and attains a $\sqrt{s/n}$ statistical rate of convergence with $s$ being the subspace sparsity level and $n$ the sample size. Compared to existing support recovery results for sparse PCA, our approach does not hinge on the spiked covariance model or the limited correlation condition. As a complement to the first estimator that enjoys the oracle property, we prove that, another estimator within the family achieves a sharper statistical rate of convergence than the standard semidefinite relaxation of sparse PCA, even when the previous assumption on the magnitude of the projection matrix is violated. We validate the theoretical results by numerical experiments on synthetic datasets.