Penalized likelihood estimation and inference in high-dimensional logistic regression

Ioannis Kosmidis

Professor of Statistics
Department of Statistics, University of Warwick   ikosmidis ikosmidis_

ISNPS 2024
Braga, Portugal

26 June 2024

Joint with

Philipp Sterzinger

Sterzinger P, Kosmidis I (2023). Diaconis-Ylvisaker prior penalized likelihood for \(p / n \to \kappa \in (0, 1)\) logistic regression. ArXiV: 2311.11290


Logistic regression

Logistic regression


Responses \(y_1, \ldots, y_n\) with \(y_i \in \{0, 1\}\)

Covariate vectors \(x_1, \ldots, x_n\) with \(x_i \in \Re^p\)


\(Y_{1}, \ldots, Y_{n}\) conditionally independent with

\[ Y_i | x_i \sim \mathop{\mathrm{Bernoulli}}(\pi_i)\,, \quad \log \frac{\pi_i}{1 - \pi_i} = \eta_i = \sum_{t = 1}^p \beta_t x_{it} \]

Widely used for inference about covariate effects on binomial probabilities, probability calibration, and prediction

Maximum likelihood estimation


\(\displaystyle l(\beta \,;\,y, X) = \sum_{i = 1}^n \left\{y_i \eta_i - \log\left(1 + e^{\eta_i}\right) \right\}\)

Maximum likelihood (ML) estimator

\(\hat{\beta} = \arg \max l(\beta \,;\,y, X)\)

Iterative re-weighted least squares

\(\hat\beta := \beta^{(\infty)}\) where \(\displaystyle \beta^{(j + 1)} = \left(X^T W^{(j)} X\right)^{-1} X^T W^{(j)} z^{(j)}\)

\(W\) is a diagonal matrix with \(i\)th diagonal element \(\pi_i ( 1- \pi_i)\)

\(z_i = \eta_i + (y_i - \pi_i) / \{ \pi_i (1 - \pi_i) \}\) is the working variate

\(p / n \to \kappa \in (0, 1)\)


\(n = 2000, p = 400, x_{ij} \stackrel{iid}{\sim} \mathop{\mathrm{N}}(0, 1/n)\)



\(n = 2000, p = 400, x_{ij} \stackrel{iid}{\sim} \mathop{\mathrm{N}}(0, 1/n)\)

Likelihood ratio tests

\(W = 2 ( \hat{l} - \hat{l}_{0} )\), \(\hat{l}_{0}\) is maximized log-likelihood under \(H_0: \beta_{201} = \ldots = \beta_{210} = 0\)

Classical theory predicts \(W_0 \stackrel{d}{\rightarrow} \chi^2_{10}\)


\(n = 2000, p = 400, x_{ij} \stackrel{iid}{\sim} \mathop{\mathrm{N}}(0, 1/n)\)

Wald tests

\(Z = \hat\beta_{k} / [(X^\top \hat{W} X)^{-1}]_{kk}^{1/2}\)

Classical theory predicts \(Z \stackrel{d}{\rightarrow} \mathop{\mathrm{N}}(0, 1)\) when \(\beta_{k} = 0\)

Recent developments

Candès & Sur (2020)

sharp phase transition about when the ML estimate has infinite components, when \(\eta_i = \delta + x_i^\top \beta\), \(x_i \sim \mathop{\mathrm{N}}(0, \Sigma)\), \(p/n \to \kappa \in (0, 1)\), \(\mathop{\mathrm{var}}(x_i^\top\beta_0) \to \gamma^2\)

Sur & Candès (2019), Zhao et al. (2022)

a method, based on approximate message passing (AMP), that recovers estimation and inferential performance by appropriately rescaling \(\hat\beta\), whenever that exists

Phase transition, \(\hat\beta\)

Phase transition, \(\hat\beta / \mu_\star\) (Sur & Candès, 2019)


Diaconis-Ylvisaker prior

Diaconis-Ylvisaker prior


\[ \log p(\beta \,;\,X) = \frac{1 - {\color[rgb]{0.70,0.1,0.12}{\alpha}}}{{\color[rgb]{0.70,0.1,0.12}{\alpha}}} \sum_{i=1}^n \left\{ \frac{1}{2}x_i^\top \beta - \zeta\left(x_i^\top \beta\right) \right\} + C \] with \(\zeta(\eta) = \log(1 + e^\eta)\), \(\alpha \in (0, 1)\)

Penalized log-likelihood

\[ l^*(\beta \,;\,y, X) = \frac{1}{\alpha} \sum_{i = 1}^n \left\{y_i^* x_i^\top\beta - \zeta\left(x_i^\top \beta\right) \right\} \] with \(y_i^* = \alpha y_i + (1 - \alpha) / 2\)

Maximum DY prior penalized likelihood

Maximum DY prior penalized likelihood (MDYPL)

\(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}= \arg \max l^*(\beta \,;\,y, X)\)

MDYPL implementation using ML procedures

\(l(\beta \,;\,y^*, X) / \alpha = \ell^*(\beta \,;\,y, X)\) \(\quad \Longrightarrow \quad\) MDYPL is ML with pseudo-responses

Existence and uniqueness, and equivariance

\(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}\) is unique and exists for all \(\{y, X\}\) configurations1, and \(\widehat{g(\beta)} = g(\hat\beta)\)

Shrinkage 2

\(\displaystyle \hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}\longrightarrow \left\{ \begin{array}{ll} \hat\beta\,, & \alpha \to 1 \\ 0 \,, & \alpha \to 0 \end{array}\right.\)



Covariate distribution, dimension, and signal strength

\(x_{ij} \stackrel{iid}{\sim} \mathop{\mathrm{N}}(0, \Sigma)\)

As \(p / n \to \kappa \in (0, 1)\), \(\mathop{\mathrm{var}}(x_i^\top \beta_0) = \beta_0^\top \Sigma \beta_0 \to \gamma^2 > 0\)

Signal \(\beta_0\)

The empirical distribution of approximately scaled components of \(\beta_0\) converges to \(\pi_{\bar\beta}\), with finite second moment


Develop a generalized AMP recursion1, whose iterates have a known asymptotic distribution, with stationary point \(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}\), and use that to correct MDYPL-based estimation and inference

State evolution of AMP recursion

Solution \(({\mu}_{*}, {b}_{*}, {\sigma}_{*})\) to the system of nonlinear equations in \((\mu, b, \sigma)\)

\[ \begin{aligned} 0 & = \mathop{\mathrm{E}}\left[2 \zeta'(Z) Z \left\{\frac{1+\alpha}{2} - \zeta' \left(\textrm{prox}_{b \zeta}\left(Z_{*} + \frac{1+\alpha}{2}b\right) \right) \right\} \right] \\ 0 & = 1 - \kappa - \mathop{\mathrm{E}}\left[\frac{2 \zeta'(Z)}{1 + b \zeta''(\textrm{prox}_{b\zeta}\left(Z_{*} + \frac{1+\alpha}{2}b\right))} \right] \\ 0 & = \sigma^2 - \frac{b^2}{\kappa^2} \mathop{\mathrm{E}}\left[2 \zeta'(Z) \left\{\frac{1+\alpha}{2} - \zeta'\left(\textrm{prox}_{b\zeta}\left( Z_{*} + \frac{1+\alpha}{2}b\right)\right) \right\}^2 \right] \end{aligned} \tag{1}\]

\(Z \sim \mathop{\mathrm{N}}(0, \gamma^2)\)

\(Z_{*} = \mu Z + \kappa^{1/2} \sigma G\) with \(G \sim \mathop{\mathrm{N}}(0, 1)\) independent of \(Z\)

\(\textrm{prox}_{b\zeta}\left(x\right)=\arg\min_{u} \left\{ b\zeta(u) + \frac{1}{2} (x-u)^2 \right\}\) is the proximal operator

Solvers for nonlinear systems, after cubature approximation of expectations

Aggregate asymptotic behaviour of mDYPL estimator

For any \(\psi(\cdot, \cdot)\) is pseudo-Lipschitz of order 2, \[ \frac{1}{p} \sum_{j=1}^{p} \psi(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_j - {\mu}_{*}\beta_{0,j}, \beta_{0,j}) \overset{\textrm{a.s.}}{\longrightarrow} \mathop{\mathrm{E}}\left[\psi({\sigma}_{*}G, \bar{\beta})\right], \quad \textrm{as } n \to \infty \] where \(G \sim \mathop{\mathrm{N}}(0,1)\) is independent of \(\bar{\beta} \sim \pi_{\bar{\beta}}\)

Behaviour of \(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}\)

\(\psi(t,u)\) statistic a.s. limit
\(t\) \(\frac{1}{p} \sum_{j=1}^p \left(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_j - {\mu}_{*}\beta_{0,j}\right)\) Bias \(0\)
\(t^2\) \(\frac{1}{p} \sum_{j=1}^p \left(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_j - {\mu}_{*}\beta_{0,j}\right)^2\) Variance \({\sigma}_{*}^2\)
\((t-(1-{\mu}_{*})u)^2\) \(\frac{1}{p} \sum_{j=1}^p \left(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_j - \beta_{0,j}\right)^2\) MSE \({\sigma}_{*}^2 + (1-{\mu}_{*})^2 \gamma^2 / \kappa\)

Behaviour of \(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}/ \mu^*\)

\(\psi(t,u)\) statistic a.s. limit
\(t / {\mu}_{*}\) \(\frac{1}{p} \sum_{j=1}^p \left(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_j / {\mu}_{*}- \beta_{0,j}\right)\) Bias \(0\)
\(t^2/{\mu}_{*}^2\) \(\frac{1}{p} \sum_{j=1}^p \left(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_j / {\mu}_{*}- \beta_{0,j}\right)^2\) MSE / Variance \({\sigma}_{*}^2 / {\mu}_{*}^2\)

\(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}\) for \(\alpha = 1 / (1 + \kappa)\)

\(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}/ \mu_\star\) for \(\alpha = 1 / (1 + \kappa)\)

\(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}\) for \(\alpha = 1 / (1 + \kappa)\)

\(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}/ \mu_\star\) for \(\alpha = 1 / (1 + \kappa)\)


Adjusted \(Z\)-statistics

If \(\sqrt{n} \tau_j \beta_{0,j} = \mathcal{O}(1)\) with \(\tau_j^2 = \mathop{\mathrm{var}}(x_{ij} \mid x_{i, -j})\), then \[ Z^*_j = \sqrt{n} \tau_j \frac{\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_{j} - {\mu}_{*}\beta_{0,j}}{{\sigma}_{*}} \overset{d}{\longrightarrow} \mathcal{N}(0,1) \]

DY prior penalized likelihood ratio test statistics

Define the DY prior penalized likelihood ratio test statistic for \(H_0: \beta_{0,i_1} = \ldots = \beta_{0,i_k} = 0\) as \[ \Lambda_I = \underset{\beta \in \Re^p}{\max} \, \ell(\beta \,;\,y^*, X) - \underset{\substack{\beta \in \Re^p: \\ \beta_j = 0, \, j \in I }}{\max} \, \ell(\beta \,;\,y^*, X)\,, \quad I = \{i_1,\ldots,i_k\} \]

Then, \[ 2 \Lambda_{I} \overset{d}{\longrightarrow} \frac{\kappa \sigma_{*}^2}{b_{*}} \chi^2_k \]


\(\gamma^2 = 5, \Sigma_{ij} = 0.5^{|i - j|}\)

\(n = 1000, p = 800\)

\(\alpha = n / (n + p)\)

Penalized likelihood ratio tests


\(\gamma^2 = 5, \Sigma_{ij} = 0.5^{|i - j|}\)

\(n = 1000, p = 800\)

\(\alpha = n / (n + p)\)

Adjusted Wald tests


Optimal shrinkage

Amount of shrinkage (value of \(\alpha\)) that results in \(\hat{\beta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}/ {\mu}_{*}\) having minimal asymptotic MSE

Better MSE than the rescaled MLE, whenever that exists

Estimating unknowns


\(\hat\kappa = p / n\)

Signal strength

For multivariate normal covariates (potentially other distributions) we can adapt the Signal Strength Leave-One-Out Estimator (SLOE) of Yadlowsky et al. (2021)

\[ \hat\gamma^2 = \frac{\sum_{i = 1}^n (s_i - \bar{s})^2}{n} \quad \text{with} \quad s_i = \hat{\eta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_i - \frac{\hat{h}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_i}{1 - \hat{h}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_i} (\hat{z}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_i - \hat{\eta}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_i) \] where \(\hat{h}^{\textrm{\small DY}}_i\) is the hat value for the \(i\)th observation

Conditional variance of covariates

\(\hat{\tau}_j\) from the residual sums of squares from regressing the \(j\)th covariate on all others

Current work

Models with intercept

Empirical evidence for a similar conjecture to Zhao et al. (2022, Conjecture 7.1), with state evolution given from a system of 4 equations in 4 unknowns

Non-gaussian model matrices

Distributions with light-tails

Asymptotic results seem to apply for a broad class of covariate distributions with sufficiently light tails (e.g. sub-Gaussian), as also observed in Sur & Candès (2019)


Results in Han & Shen (2023) can be used to examine universality for general model matrices


Candès, E. J., & Sur, P. (2020). The phase transition for the existence of the maximum likelihood estimate in high-dimensional logistic regression. Annals of Statistics, 48(1), 27–42.
Cordeiro, G. M., & McCullagh, P. (1991). Bias correction in generalized linear models. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series B: Methodological, 53(3), 629–643.
Han, Q., & Shen, Y. (2023). Universality of regularized regression estimators in high dimensions. The Annals of Statistics, 51(4), 1799–1823.
Rigon, T., & Aliverti, E. (2023). Conjugate priors and bias reduction for logistic regression models. Statistics & Probability Letters, 202, 109901.
Sur, P., & Candès, E. J. (2019). A modern maximum-likelihood theory for high-dimensional logistic regression. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(29), 14516–14525.
Yadlowsky, S., Yun, T., McLean, C. Y., & D’Amour, A. (2021). SLOE: A faster method for statistical inference in high-dimensional logistic regression. Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems, 34, 29517–29528.
Zhao, Q., Sur, P., & Candès, E. J. (2022). The asymptotic distribution of the MLE in high-dimensional logistic models: Arbitrary covariance. Bernoulli, 28(3).

Sterzinger P, Kosmidis I (2023). Diaconis-Ylvisaker prior penalized likelihood for \(p / n \to \kappa \in (0, 1)\) logistic regression. ArXiV: 2311.11290