In probability theory, Markov's inequality gives an upper bound for the probability that a non-negative function of a random variable is greater than or equal to some positive constant. It is named after the Russian mathematician Andrey Markov, although it appeared earlier in the work of Pafnuty Chebyshev (Markov's teacher), and many sources, especially in analysis, refer to it as Chebyshev's inequality or Bienaymé's inequality.
Markov's inequality (and other similar inequalities) relate probabilities to expectations, and provide (frequently loose but still useful) bounds for the cumulative distribution function of a random variable.
An example of an application of Markov's inequality is the fact that (assuming incomes are non-negative) no more than 1/5 of the population can have more than 5 times the average income.
If X is any nonnegative random variable and a > 0, then
Corollary: Chebyshev's inequality
Chebyshev's inequality uses the variance to bound the probability that a random variable deviates far from the mean. Specifically:
for any a>0. Here Var(X) is the variance of X, defined as:
Chebyshev's inequality follows from Markov's inequality by considering the random variable
for which Markov's inequality reads
We separate the case in which the measure space is a probability space from the more general case because the probability case is more accessible for the general reader.
Proof In the language of probability theory
For any event E, let IE be the indicator random variable of E, that is, IE = 1 if E occurs and IE = 0 otherwise.
Using this notation, we have I(X ≥ a) = 1 if the event X ≥ a occurs, and I(X ≥ a) = 0 if X < a. Then, given a > 0,
which is clear if we consider the two possible values of I(X ≥ a). If X < a, then I(X ≥ a) = 0, and so aI(X ≥ a) = 0 ≤ X. Otherwise, we have X ≥ a, for which I(X ≥ a) = 1 and so aI(X ≥ a) = a ≤ X.
Now, using linearity of expectations, the left side of this inequality is the same as
Thus we have
and since a > 0, we can divide both sides by a.
In the language of measure theory
We may assume that the function is non-negative, since only its absolute value enters in the equation. Now, consider the real-valued function s on X given by
Then is a simple function such that . By the definition of the Lebesgue integral
and since , both sides can be divided by , obtaining
Let be a self adjoint matrix-valued random variable and . Then
- Markov's inequality is used to prove Chebyshev's inequality.
- Markov's inequality can be used to show that, for a nonnegative random variable, the mean and a median are such that .
- E.M. Stein, R. Shakarchi, "Real Analysis, Measure Theory, Integration, & Hilbert Spaces", vol. 3, 1st ed., 2005, p.91
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