# Prove that $E(X) = P(X<a)E(X|X<a) + P(X\geq a)E(X|X\geq A)$

Question

While reading a Wikipedia article on Markov's Inequality, I came across the statement

$$E(X) = P(X

In the context of Markov's inequality, we are assuming $$X$$ is a non-negative r.v., but I don't think that's necessary for the statement to be true.

How do I prove this? I think I should use iterated expectation $$E(E(X| ??)$$ but I'm not exactly sure how. I'm used to things like $$E(E(X|Y=y))$$, not inequalities.

If it's relevant, I do not know measure theory yet.

Solution

The answer below is totally sufficient, but for a beginniner like me I felt it was useful to dive into the details. In case those details help anybody else, here they are:

We want to prove

$$E(X) = P(X

\begin{align} E[X] &= \int_{-\infty}^\infty xf(x)dx \\ &= \int_{-\infty}^a xf(x)dx +\int_a^\infty xf(x)dx \\ &= \Pr(X

Where $$f(x)/\Pr(X is the conditional pdf $$f(x | X. The purpose of this extended answer is to investigate how this conditional probability works.

Typically we denote the conditional pdf for random variables $$X,Y$$ as

$$f_{X|Y}(x|y) = f_{X,Y}(x,y)/f_Y(y)$$

But what is the random variable $$Y$$ in this case? For convenience, denote $$A^-=(-\infty,a)$$ and $$A^+=[a,\infty)$$, then we define $$L(X) = I_{A^-}(X)$$ where $$I_{A^-}$$ is the indicator function on set $$A^-$$.

$$\begin{equation} L(X) = I_{A^-}(x) = \begin{cases} 1 & \text{if x\in (-\infty,a)}\\ 0 & \text{if x\in [a,\infty)} \end{cases} \end{equation}$$ Then

$$f_{X|L}(x|l) = \frac{f_{X,L}(x,l)}{f_L(l)}$$

where

$$\begin{equation} f_L(l) = P(L(x)=l) = \begin{cases} P(x\in A^-) & \text{if l=1}\\ P(x\in A^+) & \text{if l=0}\\ 0 & \text{otherwise} \end{cases} \end{equation}$$

and $$f_{X,L}(x,l)$$ is defined such that

$$\Pr(X\in U,L\in V) = \sum_{l\in V}\int_{x\in U}f_{X,L}(x,l)dx$$

Note we must have

$$f_{X,L}(x,1) = 0 ~\text{ for }~ x\in A^+$$

since by definition of the indicator function

$$P(X\in U\subset A^+ \land L=I_{A^-}(X)\in\{1\}) = 0$$

Also, by definition of the marginal pdf $$f_L(l)$$, we know that

$$\int_{x\in\mathbf{R}}f_{X,L}(x,1)dx = f_L(1) = P(X\in A^-) = P(X

This implies $$f_{X,L}(x,1)=f(x)$$ for $$x.

Similarly

$$f_{X,L}(x,0) = 0 ~\text{ for }~ x\in A^-$$ since by definition

$$P(X\in U\subset A^-,L\in\{0\}) = 0$$

Again, by definition of the marginal pdf, we know

$$\int_{x\in\mathbf{R}}f_{X,L}(x,0)dx = f_L(0) = P(X\in A^+) = P(X\geq a) = \int_{x\geq a}f(x)dx$$

which implies $$f_{X,L}(x,0) = f(x)$$ for $$x\geq a$$.

Combining all this information, we see that

$$\begin{equation} f_{X,L}(x,l) = \begin{cases} f(x)I_{(-\infty,a)}(x) & \text{if l=1}\\ f(x)I_{[a,\infty)}(x) & \text{if l=0}\\ 0 & \text{otherwise} \end{cases} \end{equation}$$

Now we can give an explicit expression for $$f_{X|L}(x|l)$$:

$$\begin{equation} f_{X|L}(x|l) = \frac{f_{X,L}(x,l)}{f_L(l)} = \begin{cases} & \frac{f(x)I_{(-\infty,a)}(x)}{P(X

Essentially, the condition $$X is represented with an indicator function $$(X and the new, conditioned random variable $$X|X is given by $$(X|X. Using this notation, we could write

$$X|L \sim f_{X|L}(x|l) = f_{X|X

Now we can make sense of the proof given at the beginning.

\begin{align} \int_{-\infty}^a xf(x)dx &= \Pr(X

and similarly

\begin{align} \int_a^\infty xf(x)dx &= \Pr(X\geq a)\int_a^\infty x\frac{f(x)}{\Pr(X\geq a)}dx\\ &= \Pr(X\geq a)\int_a^\infty xI_{A^+}(x)\frac{f(x)I_{A^+}}{\Pr(X\geq a)}dx\\ &= \Pr(X\geq a)\int_a^\infty (x | x\geq a)f_{X|X\geq a}(x|1)dx \\ &= \Pr(X\geq a)E(X|X\geq a) \end{align}

\begin{align} E[X] &= \int_{-\infty}^\infty xf(x)dx \\ &= \int_{-\infty}^a xf(x)dx +\int_a^\infty xf(x)dx \\ &= \Pr(X
• I'm used to writing $f_{X|Y}(x|y) = f_{X,Y}(x,y)/f_Y(y)$ where $Y$ is a r.v., but how do we interpret $\text{Pr}(X<a)$ as the pdf/pmf of a r.v.? Can think of the indicator function $I_{(-\infty,a)}(x)$ as the discrete r.v. we are conditioning on? Nov 18 '20 at 21:49
• So $f_{X|I_a}(x | I_a=1)=f_{X|X<a}(x|x<a) = f(x)/f_{I_a}(I_a(x)=1) = f(x)/\text{Pr}(X<a)$? This is my first time seeing something like this, I'm trying to make sure I understand it! Nov 18 '20 at 22:00
• Yeah, that's the idea. Notice also that the conditioning changes the support; i.e., $f_{X\mid X<a}$ is zero for $X \ge a$. Nov 18 '20 at 22:24
• As an aside, in a measure theory setting you could have a nicer proof starting from the fact $\Pr(A)=\Pr(A \cap (B \cup B^C)) = \Pr(A\cap B)+\Pr(A\cap B^C)=\Pr(A\mid B)\Pr(B)+\Pr(A\mid B^C)\Pr(B^C)$. Nov 18 '20 at 22:28
• I looked it over quickly and I'd say you're working through the details correctly. One other aside is that a fundamental connection between probability and expectation is that for an indicator function $I_A$, $E[I_A]=\Pr(A)$. Nov 20 '20 at 15:44