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Statistica Sinica 26 (2016), 35-67

Stephen Reid, Robert Tibshirani and Jerome Friedman
Stanford University

Abstract: Variance estimation in the linear model when p > n is a difficult problem. Standard least squares estimation techniques do not apply. Several variance estimators have been proposed in the literature, all with accompanying asymptotic results proving consistency and asymptotic normality under a variety of assumptions.

It is found, however, that most of these estimators suffer large biases in finite samples when true underlying signals become less sparse with larger per element signal strength. One estimator seems to merit more attention than it has received in the literature: a residual sum of squares based estimator using Lasso coefficients with regularisation parameter selected adaptively (via cross-validation).

In this paper, we review several variance estimators and perform a reasonably extensive simulation study in an attempt to compare their finite sample performance. It would seem from the results that variance estimators with adaptively chosen regularisation parameters perform admirably over a broad range of sparsity and signal strength settings. Finally, some intial theoretical analyses pertaining to these types of estimators are proposed and developed.

Key words and phrases: Cross-validation, error variance estimation, lasso.

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