Robust Regression Revisited: Acceleration and Improved Estimation Rates

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Arun Jambulapati, Jerry Li, Tselil Schramm, Kevin Tian


We study fast algorithms for statistical regression problems under the strong contamination model, where the goal is to approximately optimize a generalized linear model (GLM) given adversarially corrupted samples. Prior works in this line of research were based on the \emph{robust gradient descent} framework of \cite{PrasadSBR20}, a first-order method using biased gradient queries, or the \emph{Sever} framework of \cite{DiakonikolasKK019}, an iterative outlier-removal method calling a stationary point finder. We present nearly-linear time algorithms for robust regression problems with improved runtime or estimation guarantees compared to the state-of-the-art. For the general case of smooth GLMs (e.g.\ logistic regression), we show that the robust gradient descent framework of \cite{PrasadSBR20} can be \emph{accelerated}, and show our algorithm extends to optimizing the Moreau envelopes of Lipschitz GLMs (e.g.\ support vector machines), answering several open questions in the literature. For the well-studied case of robust linear regression, we present an alternative approach obtaining improved estimation rates over prior nearly-linear time algorithms. Interestingly, our algorithm starts with an identifiability proof introduced in the context of the sum-of-squares algorithm of \cite{BakshiP21}, which achieved optimal error rates while requiring large polynomial runtime and sample complexity. We reinterpret their proof within the Sever framework and obtain a dramatically faster and more sample-efficient algorithm under fewer distributional assumptions.