Quantile regression for analyzing heterogeneity in ultra-high dimension

Lan Wang, Yichao Wu, Runze Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


Ultra-high dimensional data often display heterogeneity due to either heteroscedastic variance or other forms of non-location-scale covariate effects. To accommodate heterogeneity, we advocate a more general interpretation of sparsity, which assumes that only a small number of covariates influence the conditional distribution of the response variable, given all candidate covariates; however, the sets of relevant covariates may differ when we consider different segments of the conditional distribution. In this framework, we investigate the methodology and theory of nonconvex, penalized quantile regression in ultra-high dimension. The proposed approach has two distinctive features: (1) It enables us to explore the entire conditional distribution of the response variable, given the ultra-high-dimensional covariates, and provides a more realistic picture of the sparsity pattern; (2) it requires substantially weaker conditions compared with alternative methods in the literature; thus, it greatly alleviates the difficulty of model checking in the ultra-high dimension. In theoretic development, it is challenging to deal with both the nonsmooth loss function and the nonconvex penalty function in ultra-high-dimensional parameter space. We introduce a novel, sufficient optimality condition that relies on a convex differencing representation of the penalized loss function and the subdifferential calculus. Exploring this optimality condition enables us to establish the oracle property for sparse quantile regression in the ultra-high dimension under relaxed conditions. The proposed method greatly enhances existing tools for ultra-high-dimensional data analysis. Monte Carlo simulations demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed procedure. The real data example we analyzed demonstrates that the new approach reveals substantially more information as compared with alternative methods. This article has online supplementary material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-222
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Statistical Association
Issue number497
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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