I understand the layman concept of PACF - it is the correlation with the linear dependence of the earlier lags removed.

However, I am confused as to how this relates to Autocorrelation. Consider ACF(2) which is equal to corr(Xt, Xt-2).

Where and how is the correlation between the earlier lags included in the computation of this value? How does Xt-1 come into the picture? I have read explanations involving vectors and residuals but it’s still difficult to comprehend. Could someone explain this more simply?

  • $\begingroup$ AFAIK, ACF(2) will (in a rough sense) "include" the effect of $X_{t-1}$, if $X_{t-2}$ influences $X_{t-1}$ and $X_{t-1}$ influences ${X_t}$. However, PACF(2) measures the relationship between $X_t$ and $X_{t-2}$ after the effect of $X_{t-1}$ on $X_t$ has been "filtered out". $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 9:35

1 Answer 1


Consider an auto-regressive model such that

$$y_t = \alpha y_{t-1} + \epsilon_t,\qquad \epsilon_t \sim \mathcal{N}(0,\sigma^2)$$

You can rewrite it as

$$y_t = \alpha(\underbrace{\alpha y_{t-2}+\epsilon_{t-1}}_{y_{t-1}}) + \epsilon_t$$

So you can see that $y_t$ and $y_{t-2}$ are "linked" through $y_{t-1}$.

If you compute it:

$Corr(y_t,y_{t-1})=Corr(\alpha y_{t-1} + \epsilon_t,y_{t-1}) =\alpha$

$Corr(y_t,y_{t-2})=Corr(\alpha^2 y_{t-2} + \alpha \epsilon_{t-1}+ \epsilon_t,y_{t-2}) =\alpha^2$

Assume $|\alpha|<1$. You can see that the correlation between the two lags is mitigated by the lag in between.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does the trend continue for AR models? Eg. corr(yt, yt-3) = alpha^3.... $\endgroup$
    – WK Wong
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 19:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes. Follow the same logic and you will see it. $\endgroup$
    – Ale
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ This answer shows how the correlation depends on the lag time for an autoregressive model. We see that $corr(Y_{t+n}, Y_t)=\alpha^n$, i.e. exponentially decaying. How exactly is PAFC computed for this model? $\endgroup$
    – Ggjj11
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 20:18

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