A nearest neighbor estimate of the residual variance

Authors: Luc P Devroye, László Györfi, Gábor Lugosi and

Electronic Journal of Statistics, Vol. 12, No 1, 1752-1778, June, 2018

We study the problem of estimating the smallest achievable mean-squared error in regression function estimation. The problem is equivalent to estimating the second moment of the regression function of Y on X ∈ ℝd. We introduce a nearest-neighbor-based estimate and obtain a normal limit law for the estimate when X has an absolutely continuous distribution, without any condition on the density. We also compute the asymptotic variance explicitly and derive a non-asymptotic bound on the variance that does not depend on the dimension d. The asymptotic variance does not depend on the smoothness of the density of X or of the regression function. A non-asymptotic exponential concentration inequal-ity is also proved. We illustrate the use of the new estimate through testing whether a component of the vector X carries information for predicting Y.