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Let $t>1$ and $X_1,..., X_t$ a set of real random variables from a discrete distribution, whose pmf is $p(x)$, supported on the points $1,...,k$.

Let $N_t(x) = \sum_{i = 1}^t \mathbb{1}_{X_i =\, x}.$ It is easy to show that $$ P\left[\max_x\left|\frac{1}{t} N_t(x) - p(x)\right| <\varepsilon\right] \geq 1- 2k\cdot e^{-2t\varepsilon^2} $$

by applying a union bound and Bernstein inequality.

Is there any concentration bound independent of the number of support points $k$?

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  • $\begingroup$ Is $n=t$? Is $X=x$? $\endgroup$ – Iosif Pinelis Apr 21 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @IosifPinelis yes, thanks for spotting the error $\endgroup$ – Apprentice Apr 21 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ Still: Is $X=x$? $\endgroup$ – Iosif Pinelis Apr 21 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ yes you are right. $\endgroup$ – Apprentice Apr 21 at 16:45
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$\newcommand\ep\varepsilon$For $[t]:=\{1,\dots,t\}$, we have $$N_t-tp=\sum_{i\in[t]}J_i,$$ where $N_t$ is the random vector in $\mathbb R^{[k]}$ with coordinates $N_t(x)$ for $x\in[k]$, $p$ is the vector in $\mathbb R^{[k]}$ with coordinates $p(x)$ for $x\in[k],$ and the $J_i$'s are iid zero-mean random vectors in $\mathbb R^{[k]}$ with coordinates $J_i(x)=1(X_i=x)-p(x)$ for $x\in[k]$. For the $2$-norm $\|J_i\|_2$ of $J_i$ we have $$\|J_i\|_2^2=\sum_{x\in[k]}(1(X_i=x)-p(x))^2 \le\sum_{x\in[k]}(1(X_i=x)+p(x)^2)=1+\sum_{x\in[k]}p(x)^2\le2.$$

So, $$P\left(\max_x\left|\frac1t\, N_t(x)-p(x)\right|\ge\ep\right) =P\left(\max_x\left|N_t(x)-tp(x)\right|\ge t\ep\right) \le P\left(\|N_t-tp\|_2\ge t\ep\right) \le2e^{-t\ep^2/4},$$ by Theorem 3.5 (with $r=t\ep$, $D=1$, and $b_*^2=2t$). So, we have desired concerntration.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have added details on the second inequality in the last display. As for the first Inequality there, indeed it follows because $\|u\|_\infty\le\|u\|_2$. $\endgroup$ – Iosif Pinelis Apr 21 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Apprentice : Think a bit more about the direction of inequality: If a smaller value exceeds some $u$, then a greater value will exceed $u$. $\endgroup$ – Iosif Pinelis Apr 21 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ Ok thanks @Iosif! Is there any assumption on the probability distribution in order for the concentration bound to hold? $\endgroup$ – Apprentice Apr 21 at 18:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Apprentice : There are no assumptions at all in addition to the assumptions stated in your post. $\endgroup$ – Iosif Pinelis Apr 21 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Apprentice : (i) With your notation such as $p(x)$ rather than $p_x$, it is better to use $\mathbb R^{[k]}$ than $\mathbb R^k$, because $\mathbb R^{[k]}$ is the set of all functions from $[k]$ to $\mathbb R$. Of course, we can identify $p(x)$ with $p_x$, and thus $\mathbb R^{[k]}$ with $\mathbb R^k$. (ii) The definition of $J_i(x)$ is correct, and it is of zero mean, since $E1(X_i=x)=P(X_i=x)=p(x)$. $\endgroup$ – Iosif Pinelis Apr 22 at 11:32

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