I have a sample of 100 points which are continuous and one-dimensional. I estimated its non-parametric density using kernel methods. How can I draw random samples from this estimated distribution?


1 Answer 1


A kernel density estimate is a mixture distribution; for every observation, there's a kernel. If the kernel is a scaled density, this leads to a simple algorithm for sampling from the kernel density estimate:

repeat nsim times:
  sample (with replacement) a random observation from the data
  sample from the kernel, and add the previously sampled random observation

If (for example) you used a Gaussian kernel, your density estimate is a mixture of 100 normals, each centred at one of your sample points and all having standard deviation $h$ equal to the estimated bandwidth. To draw a sample you can just sample with replacement one of your sample points (say $x_i$) and then sample from a $N(\mu = x_i, \sigma = h)$. In R:

# Original distribution is exp(rate = 5)
N = 1000
x <- rexp(N, rate = 5)

hist(x, prob = TRUE)

# Store the bandwith of the estimated KDE
bw <- density(x)$bw

# Draw from the sample and then from the kernel
means <- sample(x, N, replace = TRUE)
hist(rnorm(N, mean = means, sd = bw), prob = TRUE)

Strictly speaking, given that the mixture's components are equally weighted, you could avoid the sampling with replacement part and simply draw a sample a size $M$ from each components of the mixture:

M = 10
hist(rnorm(N * M, mean = x, sd = bw))

If for some reason you can't draw from your kernel (ex. your kernel is not a density), you can try with importance sampling or MCMC. For example, using importance sampling:

# Draw from proposal distribution which is normal(mu, sd = 1)
sam <- rnorm(N, mean(x), 1)

# Weight the sample using ratio of target and proposal densities
w <- sapply(sam, function(input) sum(dnorm(input, mean = x, sd = bw)) / 
                                 dnorm(input, mean(x), 1))

# Resample according to the weights to obtain an un-weighted sample
finalSample <- sample(sam, N, replace = TRUE, prob = w)

hist(finalSample, prob = TRUE)

P.S. With my thanks to Glen_b who contributed to the answer.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sorry I went straight into importance sampling, and then I realized that usually sampling is simpler than that. I added your initial explanation to my answers. Many thanks $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 10:34
  • $\begingroup$ @ Matteo Fasiolo - Do you have any reference to a paper I can cite for this method. $\endgroup$
    – Pallavi
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 23:43

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