Tests of Missing Completely At Random based on sample covariance matrices


We study the problem of testing whether the missing values of a potentially high-dimensional dataset are Missing Completely at Random (MCAR). We relax the problem of testing MCAR to the problem of testing the compatibility of a sequence of covariance matrices, motivated by the fact that this procedure is feasible when the dimension grows with the sample size. Tests of compatibility can be used to test the feasibility of positive semi-definite matrix completion problems with noisy observations, and thus our results may be of independent interest. Our first contributions are to define a natural measure of the incompatibility of a sequence of correlation matrices, which can be characterised as the optimal value of a Semi-definite Programming (SDP) problem, and to establish a key duality result allowing its practical computation and interpretation. By studying the concentration properties of the natural plug-in estimator of this measure, we introduce novel hypothesis tests that we prove have power against all distributions with incompatible covariance matrices. The choice of critical values for our tests rely on a new concentration inequality for the Pearson sample correlation matrix, which may be of interest more widely. By considering key examples of missingness structures, we demonstrate that our procedures are minimax rate optimal in certain cases. We further validate our methodology with numerical simulations that provide evidence of validity and power, even when data are heavy tailed.

Preprint on arXiv
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Alberto Bordino
Alberto Bordino
PhD Student in Statistics at the University of Warwick

Alberto Bordino, PhD Student in Statistics at the University of Warwick.