Dec 13, 2019
We propose a new statistical model, the spiked transport model, which formalizes the assumption that two probability distributions differ only on a low-dimensional subspace. We study the minimax rate of estimation for the Wasserstein distance under this model and show that this low-dimensional structure can be exploited to avoid the curse of dimensionality. As a byproduct of our minimax analysis, we establish a lower bound showing that, in the absence of such structure, the plug-in estimator is nearly rate-optimal for estimating the Wasserstein distance in high dimension. We also give evidence for a statistical-computational gap and conjecture that any computationally efficient estimator is bound to suffer from the curse of dimensionality.
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