Suppose we have three sequences of random variables, $(Y_n)_n$, $(W_n)_n$, and $(X_n)_n$ such that:

  1. If $Y_n=a$, then $X_n=b$. If $X_n=b$, then $W_n=c$. That is $$ 1_{[Y_n=a]}\leq 1_{[X_n=b]}\leq 1_{[W_n=c]} $$ for all $n=1,2,\dots$, where $a,b,c$ are real numbers.
  2. $(1_{[Y_n=a]})_n$ are i.i.d.; $(1_{[W_n=c]})_n$ are i.i.d.
  3. $\Pr(1_{[Y_n=a]}=1)=\nu_{a}$ and $\Pr(1_{[W_n=c]}=1)=\nu_{c}$ for all $n=1,2,\dots$, where $\nu_a \leq \nu_c$.

Some implications of the above:

A. $\Pr\Big(\Big|\frac{1}{n}\sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[Y_k=a]} -\nu_{a}\Big|\geq \epsilon \sqrt{\frac{\nu_{a}(1-\nu_{a})}{n}\Big)}\le \frac{1}{\epsilon^2}$ $\forall \epsilon>0$ $ \forall n$ (Chebyshev inequality)

B. $\Pr\Big(\Big|\frac{1}{n}\sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[W_k=c]} -\nu_{c}\Big|\geq \epsilon \sqrt{\frac{\nu_{c}(1-\nu_{c})}{n}\Big)}\le \frac{1}{\epsilon^2}$ $\forall \epsilon>0$ $ \forall n$ (Chebyshev inequality)

C. $\Pr\bigg(\liminf_{n\rightarrow \infty} \frac{1}{n}\sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[X_k=b]}\geq \nu_a\bigg)=1$

D. $\Pr\bigg(\limsup_{n\rightarrow \infty} \frac{1}{n}\sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[X_k=b]}\leq \nu_c\bigg)=1$

Can we use the above relations to bound the distance between $\frac{1}{n}\sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[X_k=b]}$ and its mean?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (2) implies $\nu_a=\nu_c.$ Did you really mean to assume identically distributed?? $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Sep 25, 2023 at 22:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My mistake. I meant: $(1_{[Y_n=a]})_n$ are i.i.d.; $(1_{[W_n=c]})_n$ are i.i.d. $\endgroup$
    – Star
    Sep 26, 2023 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand the subscript $_n$ in $(1_{[Y_n=a]})_n$. $\endgroup$ Oct 2, 2023 at 9:48
  • $\begingroup$ The use of these indicator makes it difficult to read the equations. Effectively we are just talking about a Bernoulli distributed variable or not? $\endgroup$ Oct 2, 2023 at 9:51
  • $\begingroup$ $(1_{[Y_n=a]})$ indicates a sequence. I'm talking about Bernoulli. $\endgroup$
    – Star
    Oct 2, 2023 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


It appears to be impossible to say anything meaningful without extra assumptions.

To illustrate, take $\nu_a = 0$, $\nu_c = 1$. Then $(X_n)$ is a totally unconstrained sequence of random variables: considering $1_{[X_1 = b]} \sim \mathrm{Bernoulli}(1/2)$, $X_2 = X_1$, $X_3 = X_1$, etc shows that no nontrivial concentration result is possible.

For any $\nu_a$ and $\nu_c$, we know that $$\frac1n \sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[Y_k = a]} \le \frac1n \sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[X_k = b]} \le \frac1n \sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[W_k = c]} .\tag{*}$$ Thus we can use Hoeffding's inequality to say that $$\Pr\left( \frac1n \sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[Y_k = a]} \le \nu_a - \sqrt{\frac{1}{2 n} \log \frac1\delta} \right) < \delta;$$ an analogous bound holds for $\frac1n \sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[W_k = c]}$, and so then by a union bound with each of those having $\delta/2$ probability and plugging in (*) we have that $$ \Pr\left( \nu_a - \sqrt{\frac{1}{2 n} \log \frac2\delta} \le \frac1n \sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[X_k = b]} \le \nu_c + \sqrt{\frac{1}{2 n} \log \frac2\delta} \right) \ge 1 - \delta. $$

From taking the expectation of all sides of (*), we also know that $\mu := \mathbb E \frac1n \sum_{i=1}^n 1_{[X_k = b]} \in [\nu_a, \nu_c]$. Thus, combining the two, we have with probability at least $1 - \delta$ that $$ \Bigl\lvert \frac1n \sum_{i=1}^n 1_{[X_k = b]} - \mu \Bigr\rvert \le (\nu_c - \nu_a) + \sqrt{\frac{1}{2 n} \log \frac2\delta} .$$ Again, this is only saying that $\mu \in [\nu_a, \nu_c]$ and the sample mean is not far outside of that same interval.

You could slightly improve the term with $\delta$ in it by using the actual binomial CDF function; it also might be possible to avoid the union bound with a more clever argument, but that would just be a tiny constant improvement. But the example at the start shows that reducing the $\nu_c - \nu_a$ term is impossible.

  • $\begingroup$ ...much bigger than $\nu_a$ and much smaller than $\nu_c$ perhaps? $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2023 at 0:31
  • $\begingroup$ Could you add more details on the case $\nu_a>0$ and $\nu_c<1$? In particular, could you translate in formal statements the second paragraph of your answer? Thank you $\endgroup$
    – Star
    Sep 28, 2023 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ Also, I wonder what is wrong with the following steps: [1] by C and D, $$ \Pr\bigg(\lim_{n\rightarrow \infty}d\big(\frac{1}{n}\sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[X_k=b]}, \big[\nu_a, \nu_c\big]\big)= 0\bigg)=1. $$ [2] For each $n$, it holds that $$\Pr\bigg(d\big(\frac{1}{n}\sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[X_k=b]}, \big[\nu_a, \nu_c\big]\big)\geq \epsilon\bigg)\leq \Pr\bigg(d\big(\frac{1}{n}\sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[X_k=b]}, \nu_b\big)\geq \epsilon\bigg)\leq \frac{Var(\frac{1}{n}\sum_{k=1}^n 1_{[X_k=b]})}{n^2\epsilon^2}\leq \frac{\max_{p\in [\nu_a, \nu_c ] } p(1-p)}{n^2 \epsilon^2}$$ Can we do something from here? $\endgroup$
    – Star
    Sep 28, 2023 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ I updated the second part of the answer; assuming that $d(t,[\nu_a,\nu_c])$ means the distance to the interval, i.e. $\max(\{\nu_a−t,t−\nu_b,0\})$, then that approach is just going to amount to the same idea as what I did above (but worse because it's Chebyshev instead of Hoeffding). (Incidentally, @AlecosPapadopoulos, I in fact meant what I said – that the mean can't be too far outside $[\nu_a, \nu_c]$.) $\endgroup$
    – Danica
    Sep 30, 2023 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. Just a clarification: how do we know that $\mu \equiv E(\frac{1}{n}\sum_{i}^n 1_{[X_k=b]})\in [\nu_a, \nu_c]$? Also, is the change from $\sqrt{\frac{1}{2n} \log\frac{1}{\delta}}$ to $\sqrt{\frac{1}{2n} \log\frac{2}{\delta}}$ when you apply the union bound correct, or a typo? $\endgroup$
    – Star
    Oct 2, 2023 at 14:27

There is not much information about the variable $B_n := 1_{[Y_n=b]}$ except that it is in between $A_n = 1_{[Y_n=a]}$ and $C_n := 1_{[W_n=c]}$.

We can imagine a process where the variable $B_n$ is being generated by being either equal to $A_n$ or equal to $C_n$ depending on a random coin flip at the beginning of generating the sequence. Then the mean of $B_n$ can be anywhere between the $\nu_a$ and $\nu_c$, and it's limits will be equal to the largest of the limits for the sequences $A_n$ and $C_n$ plus the range of the mean $\nu_b$.


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