Suppose $X_1,...,X_N$ are $N$ i.i.d random variables with heavy tailed distributions. For example, $E[X_i^p]\leq 1$ for some $p\geq 1$. Are there some concentration inequalities to bound the tail

$$P(\sum_{i=1}^N X_i>t)$$

for $t>0$?

If $X_i$ are sub-Gaussian or sub-exponential, than standard concentration inequalities such as Chernoff bounds and Hoeffding's inequality work well. So how about only requiring $E[X_i^p]$ to be bounded?


1 Answer 1


The standard way to proceed here is by right-tail truncation (see e.g. Section 1 of Nagaev's paper), as follows.

Suppose that $EX_i=0$ for all $i$; the condition that the $X_i$'s are identically distributed will not be used in this answer. Let $S_N:=\sum_{i=1}^N X_i$. Let $T_N:=\sum_{i=1}^N Y_i$, where $Y_i:=X_i\,1(X_i\le b)$ for some real $b>0$. Then \begin{align} P(S_N\ge t)&\le P(\max_{i=1}^N X_i>b)+P(T_N\ge t) \\ &\le\sum_{i=1}^N P(X_i>b)+P(T_N\ge t). \tag{0}\label{0} \end{align}

Finally, to upper-bound $P(T_N\ge t)$ for real $t\ge0$, one can use e.g. Hoeffding's bound (2.9), to get $$\begin{align} P(T_N\ge t) &\le\exp\Big(-\frac tb\, g\Big(\frac{B^2}{bt}\Big)\Big) \tag{10}\label{10} \\ &\le\Big(\frac{B^2}{bt}\Big)^{ct/b}, \tag{20}\label{20} \end{align}$$ where $B:=\sqrt{\sum_{i=1}^N EX_i^2}$, $g(u):=(1+u)\ln(1+\frac1u)-1$, and $c:=\min_{0<u<1}\dfrac{g(u)}{\ln\frac1u}=0.707\ldots$. In particular, choosing $b=ct/p$ for an arbitrary real $p>0$, from \eqref{20} we get $$P(T_N\ge t)\le\Big(\frac pc \frac{B^2}{t^2}\Big)^p. \tag{30}\label{30}$$

The bound in \eqref{10} is the best bound in its terms based on the Bernstein--Chernoff inequality. Other, similar, more general, and/or better results can be found e.g. in mentioned Section 1 of of Nagaev's paper and in this paper; see also references therein.

Another bound on $P(S_N\ge t)$ for real $t>0$ can be obtained from the Rosenthal inequality -- see e.g. this question and this answer: $$P(S_N\ge t)\le\frac{E|S_N|^p}{t^p} \le \frac{K(p)}{t^p}\,(A_p+B^p)$$ for real $p\ge2$, where $K(p)$ is a real number depending only on $p$ and $A_p:=\sum_{i=1}^N E|X_i|^p$. (Actually, the Rosenthal bound can be derived from \eqref{0} and \eqref{30}.)

For $p\in[1,2]$, one can similarly use the von Bahr--Esseen inequality, to get $$P(S_N\ge t)\le\frac{E|S_N|^p}{t^p} \le \frac{L(p)}{t^p}\,A_p,$$ where $L(p)\in[1,2]$ depends only on $p$.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for this great solution. $\endgroup$
    – jkfds
    Commented Mar 14 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ @jkfds : I am glad you liked the answer. In such a case, these guidelines may be relevant. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15 at 2:16

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