5 min read

Statistics on pairs

I’m interested in estimation for complex samples from structured data — clustered, longitudinal, family, network — and so I’m interested in intuition for estimating statistics of pairs, triples, etc.   This turns out to be surprisingly hard, so I want easy examples.  One thing I want easy examples for is the relationship between design-weighted \(U\)-statistics and design-weighted versions of their Hoeffding projections. That is, if you write a statistic as a sum over all pairs of observations, you can usually rewrite it as a sum of a slightly more complicated statistic over single observations, and I want to think about whether the weighting should be done before or after you rewrite the statistic.

The easiest possible \(U\)-statistic is the variance
\[V = \frac{1}{N(N-1)}\sum_{i,j=1}^N (X_i-X_j)^2\]
where Hoeffding projection gives the usual form
\[S = \frac{1}{N-1} \sum_{i=1}^N (X_i-\frac{1}{N}\sum_{j=1}^N X_j)^2.\]

These are identical, as everyone who has heard of \(U\)-statistics has probably been forced to prove.  In fact
\[\begin{eqnarray*} S&=& \frac{1}{N-1}\sum_{i=1}^N (X_i - \frac{1}{N}\sum_{j=1}^N X_j)^2\\\ &=&\frac{1}{N-1}\sum_{i=1}^N \left(\frac{1}{N}\sum_{j=1}^N (X_i-X_j)\right)^2\\\ &=&\frac{1}{N-1}\sum_{i=1}^N \left(\frac{1}{N}\sum_{j=1}^N (X_i-X_j)\right)^2\\\ &=&\frac{1}{N(N-1)}\sum_{i,j=1}^N (X_i-X_j)^2 + \frac{1}{N(N-1)}\sum_{(i,j)\neq(k,l)}^N (X_i-X_j)(X_k-X_l)\\\ \end{eqnarray*}\]
with the second term zero by symmetry, because the \((i,j)\) terms cancel the \((j,i)\) terms and so on.

The idea is that we can estimate \(S\) from a sample by putting in sampling weights \(w_i\) where \(w_i^{-1}\) is the probability of \(X_i\) getting sampled, because the sums are only over one index at a time.  We get a weighted mean with another weighted mean nested inside it.   We can reweight \(V\) with pairwise sampling weights \(w_{ij}\) where \(w_{ij}^{-1}\) is the probability that the pair \((i,j)\) are both sampled, because the sum is over pairs.  

Under general sampling, we’d expect the two weighted estimators to be different because one of them depends on joint sampling probabilities and the other doesn’t. Unfortunately, the variance is too simple. For straightforward comparisons such as simple random sampling versus cluster sampling all the interesting stuff cancels out and the two estimators are the same. We do not pass `Go’ and do not collect 200 intuition points.

The next simplest example is the Wilcoxon–Mann–Whitney test.


Suppose we have a finite population of pairs \((Z, G)\) , where \(Z\) is numeric and \(G\) is binary, and for some crazy reason we want to do a rank test for association between \(Z\) and \(G\).  In fact, we don’t {} to assume we want a rank test, since the test statistics will be reasonable estimators of well-defined population quantities, but to be honest the main motivation is rank tests.  For a test to make any sense at all, we need a model for the population, and we’ll start with pairs \((Z,G)\) chosen iid from some probability distribution. Later, we’ll add covariates to give a bit more structure.

Write \(N\) for the number of observations with \(Z=1\) and \(M\) for the numher with \(Z=0\), and write \(X\) and \(Y\) respectively for the subvectors of \(Z\). Write \(\mathbb{F}\) for the empirical cdf of \(X\), \(\mathbb{G}\) for the empirical cdf of \(Y\), and \(\mathbb{H}\) for that of \(Z\).  

The Mann–Whitney \(U\) statistic (suitably scaled) is
\[U_{\textrm{pop}} = \frac{1}{NM} \sum_{i=1}^N\sum_{j=1}^M \{X_i>Y_j\}\]
The Wilcoxon rank-sum statistic (also scaled) is
\[W_{\textrm{pop}} = \frac{1}{N}\sum_{i=1}^N \mathbb{H}(X_i) -\frac{1}{M}\sum_{J=1}^M \mathbb{H}(Y_j)\]

Clearly, \(U_\textrm{pop}\) is an unbiased estimator of \(P(X>Y)\) if a single observation is generated with \(G=0\) and \(G=1\).  We can expand \(\mathbb{H}\) in terms of pairs of observations:
\[\mathbb{H}(x) = \frac{1}{M+N}\left(\sum_{i=1}^N \{X_i\leq x\} + \sum_{j=1}^M \{Y_j\leq x\}\right)\]
and substitute to get
\[\begin{eqnarray*} W_{\textrm{pop}} &= &\frac{1}{N}\sum_{i=1}^N \frac{1}{M+N}\left(\sum_{i'=1}^N \{X_{i'}\leq X_i\} + \sum_{j'=1}^M \{Y_{j'}\leq X_i\}\right) \\\ & &\qquad - \frac{1}{M}\sum_{j=1}^M \frac{1}{M+N}\left(\sum_{i'=1}^N \{X_{i'}\leq Y_j\} + \sum_{j'=1}^M \{Y_{j'}\leq Y_j\}\right)\\\ &=& \frac{1}{N(M+N)} \sum_{i=1}^N\sum_{j'=1}^M  \{Y_{j'}\leq X_i\}-\frac{1}{M(M+N)}  \sum_{i'=1}^N \{X_{i'}\leq Y_j\} \\\ &&\qquad +\frac{1}{N(M+N)}\sum_{i=1}^N\sum_{i'=1}^N \{X_{i'}\leq X_i\} - \frac{1}{M(M+N)}\sum_{j=1}^M\sum_{j'=1}^M \{Y_{j'}\leq Y_j\}\\\ &=&\frac{M+N}{NM(M+N)}\sum_{i,j} \{X_i>Y_j\} + \frac{NM(M-1)/2-MN(N-1)/2}{NM(M+N)}\\\ &=&\frac{1}{NM}\sum_{i,j} \{X_i>Y_j\} + \frac{M-N}{2(M+N)} \end{eqnarray*}\]

So,  \[U_\textrm{pop} =  W_\textrm{pop} + \frac{M-N}{2(M+N)}\]
and the two tests are equivalent, as everyone already knows. Again, there’s a good chance you have been forced to do this derivation, and you probably took fewer tries to get it right than I did.

Definitions under complex sampling

We take a sample, with known marginal sampling probabilities \(p_i\) for the \(X\)s, \(q_j\) for the \(Y\)s and pairwise sampling probabilities \(\pi_{i,j}\).  We write \(n\) and \(m\) for the number of sampled observations in each group, and relabel so that these are \(i=1,\ldots,n\) and \(j=1,\ldots,m\).  We write \(\hat N\)  and \(\hat M\) for the Horvitz–Thompson estimates of \(N\) and \(M\), and \(\hat F\) for the estimate of \(\mathbb{F}\) (and so on).  That is
\[\hat H(z) = \frac{1}{\hat M+\hat N}\left(\sum_{i=1}^n \frac{1}{p_i} \{X_i\leq z\} + \sum_{j=1}^m \frac{1}{q_i} \{Y_j\leq z\}\right)\]

The natural estimator of \(W_\textrm{pop}\) is that of Lumley and Scott
\[\hat W = \frac{1}{\hat N}\sum_{i=1}^n \frac{1}{p_i}\hat{H}(X_i) -\frac{1}{\hat M}\sum_{J=1}^m \frac{1}{q_i}\hat{H}(Y_j)\]

A natural estimator of \(U_\textrm{pop}\) is
\[\hat U= \frac{1}{\widehat{NM}} \sum_{i=1}^n\sum_{j=1}^m \frac{1}{\pi_{ij}}\{X_i>Y_j\}\]


  1.  \(\hat U\) and \(\hat W\) are consistent estimators of the population values

  2.  Therefore, they are also consistent estimators of the superpopulation parameters

  3. However, \(\hat U\) depends explicitly on pairwise sampling probabilities and \(\hat W\) does not

  4. And there (hopefully) isn’t enough linearity to make all the differences go away.


We can try to substitute the definition of \(\hat H\) into the definition of \(\hat W\) and expand as in the population case.  To simplify notation I will assume that the sampling probabilities are designed or calibrated so that \(N=\hat N\) and so on (or close enough that it doesn’t matter).
\[\begin{eqnarray*} \hat W &= &\frac{1}{N}\sum_{i=1}^n \frac{1}{p_i} \frac{1}{M+N}\left(\sum_{i'=1}^n \frac{1}{p_{i'}}\{X_{i'}\leq X_i\} + \sum_{j'=1}^m \frac{1}{q_{j'}} \{Y_{j'}\leq X_i\}\right) \\\ & &\qquad - \frac{1}{M}\sum_{j=1}^m \frac{1}{q_{j}} \frac{1}{M+N}\left(\sum_{i'=1}^n\frac{1}{p_{i'}} \{X_{i'}\leq Y_j\} + \sum_{j'=1}^m\frac{1}{q_{j'}} \{Y_{j'}\leq Y_j\}\right)\\\ &=& \frac{1}{N(M+N)} \sum_{i=1}^n\sum_{j'=1}^m\frac{1}{p_iq_{j'}}  \{Y_{j'}\leq X_i\}-\frac{1}{M(M+N)}  \sum_{i'=1}^n \sum_{j=1}^m\frac{1}{p_{i'}q_{j}} \{X_{i'}\leq Y_j\} \\\ &&\qquad +\frac{1}{N(M+N)}\sum_{i=1}^n\sum_{i'=1}^n \frac{1}{p_{i'}p_{i}} \{X_{i'}\leq X_i\} - \frac{1}{M(M+N)}\sum_{j=1}^m\sum_{j'=1}^m \frac{1}{q_jq_{j'}} \{Y_{j'}\leq Y_j\}\\\ &=&\frac{1}{MN}\sum_{i,j}\frac{1}{p_iq_j} \{X_i>Y_j\} + \textrm{ugly expression not involving $X$ and $Y$} \end{eqnarray*}\]

(The ugly expression involves the variance of the marginal sampling weights, since
\[2\sum_{i,i'} p_i^{-1}p_{i'}^{-1}= (\sum_i p_i^{-1})^2- 2\sum_i p_i^{-2}.\]
It doesn’t depend on \(X\) and \(Y\), and it is the same in, for example, simple random sampling of individuals and simple random sampling of clusters. )

That is, the reweighted \(\hat W\) is a version of \(\hat U\) using the product of marginal sampling probabilities rather than the joint ones.  They really are different, this time. Using \(\hat W\) will give more weight to pairs within the same cluster than to pairs in different clusters.

It’s still not clear which one is preferable, eg,  how will the power of the tests compare in various scenarios? But it’s progress.