Alternating Minimization for Regression Problems with Vector-valued Outputs

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

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Prateek Jain, Ambuj Tewari


In regression problems involving vector-valued outputs (or equivalently, multiple responses), it is well known that the maximum likelihood estimator (MLE), which takes noise covariance structure into account, can be significantly more accurate than the ordinary least squares (OLS) estimator. However, existing literature compares OLS and MLE in terms of their asymptotic, not finite sample, guarantees. More crucially, computing the MLE in general requires solving a non-convex optimization problem and is not known to be efficiently solvable. We provide finite sample upper and lower bounds on the estimation error of OLS and MLE, in two popular models: a) Pooled model, b) Seemingly Unrelated Regression (SUR) model. We provide precise instances where the MLE is significantly more accurate than OLS. Furthermore, for both models, we show that the output of a computationally efficient alternating minimization procedure enjoys the same performance guarantee as MLE, up to universal constants. Finally, we show that for high-dimensional settings as well, the alternating minimization procedure leads to significantly more accurate solutions than the corresponding OLS solutions but with error bound that depends only logarithmically on the data dimensionality.