Regularized EM Algorithms: A Unified Framework and Statistical Guarantees

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 28 (NIPS 2015)

Bibtex Metadata Paper Reviews Supplemental


Xinyang Yi, Constantine Caramanis


Latent models are a fundamental modeling tool in machine learning applications, but they present significant computational and analytical challenges. The popular EM algorithm and its variants, is a much used algorithmic tool; yet our rigorous understanding of its performance is highly incomplete. Recently, work in [1] has demonstrated that for an important class of problems, EM exhibits linear local convergence. In the high-dimensional setting, however, the M-step may not be well defined. We address precisely this setting through a unified treatment using regularization. While regularization for high-dimensional problems is by now well understood, the iterative EM algorithm requires a careful balancing of making progress towards the solution while identifying the right structure (e.g., sparsity or low-rank). In particular, regularizing the M-step using the state-of-the-art high-dimensional prescriptions (e.g., `a la [19]) is not guaranteed to provide this balance. Our algorithm and analysis are linked in a way that reveals the balance between optimization and statistical errors. We specialize our general framework to sparse gaussian mixture models, high-dimensional mixed regression, and regression with missing variables, obtaining statistical guarantees for each of these examples.