Logarithmically concave function

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In convex analysis, a non-negative function f : RnR+ is logarithmically concave (or log-concave for short) if its domain is a convex set, and if it satisfies the inequality

for all x,y ∈ dom f and 0 < θ < 1. If f is strictly positive, this is equivalent to saying that the logarithm of the function, log ∘ f, is concave; that is,

for all x,y ∈ dom f and 0 < θ < 1.

Examples of log-concave functions are the 0-1 indicator functions of convex sets (which requires the more flexible definition), and the Gaussian function.

Similarly, a function is log-convex if it satisfies the reverse inequality

for all x,y ∈ dom f and 0 < θ < 1.


  • A log-concave function is also quasi-concave. This follows from the fact that the logarithm is monotone implying that the superlevel sets of this function are convex.[1]
  • Every concave function that is nonnegative on its domain is log-concave. However, the reverse does not necessarily hold. An example is the Gaussian function f(x) = exp(−x2/2) which is log-concave since log f(x) = x2/2 is a concave function of x. But f is not concave since the second derivative is positive for |x| > 1:
  • From above two points, concavity log-concavity quasiconcavity.
  • A twice differentiable, nonnegative function with a convex domain is log-concave if and only if for all x satisfying f(x) > 0,
negative semi-definite. For functions of one variable, this condition simplifies to

Operations preserving log-concavity[edit]

  • Products: The product of log-concave functions is also log-concave. Indeed, if f and g are log-concave functions, then log f and log g are concave by definition. Therefore
is concave, and hence also f g is log-concave.
  • Marginals: if f(x,y) : Rn+m → R is log-concave, then
is log-concave (see Prékopa–Leindler inequality).
  • This implies that convolution preserves log-concavity, since h(x,y) = f(x-yg(y) is log-concave if f and g are log-concave, and therefore
is log-concave.

Log-concave distributions[edit]

Log-concave distributions are necessary for a number of algorithms, e.g. adaptive rejection sampling.

As it happens, many common probability distributions are log-concave. Some examples:[2]

Note that all of the parameter restrictions have the same basic source: The exponent of non-negative quantity must be non-negative in order for the function to be log-concave.

The following distributions are non-log-concave for all parameters:

Note that the cumulative distribution function (CDF) of all log-concave distributions is also log-concave. However, some non-log-concave distributions also have log-concave CDF's:

The following are among the properties of log-concave distributions:

  • If a density is log-concave, so is its cumulative distribution function (CDF).
  • If a multivariate density is log-concave, so is the marginal density over any subset of variables.
  • The sum of two independent log-concave random variables is log-concave. This follows from the fact that the convolution of two log-concave functions is log-concave.
  • The product of two log-concave functions is log-concave. This means that joint densities formed by multiplying two probability densities (e.g. the normal-gamma distribution, which always has a shape parameter >= 1) will be log-concave. This property is heavily used in general-purpose Gibbs sampling programs such as BUGS and JAGS, which are thereby able to use adaptive rejection sampling over a wide variety of conditional distributions derived from the product of other distributions.


  1. ^ a b Stephen Boyd and Lieven Vandenberghe, Convex Optimization (PDF) Section 3.5
  2. ^ See Mark Bagnoli and Ted Bergstrom (1989), "Log-Concave Probability and Its Applications", University of Michigan.[1]
  3. ^ a b András Prékopa (1971), "Logarithmic concave measures with application to stochastic programming". Acta Scientiarum Mathematicarum, 32, pp. 301–316.


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See also[edit]