Shrinkage algorithms for MMSE covariance estimation

Yilun Chen*, Ami Wiesel, Yonina C. Eldar, Alfred O. Hero

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

330 Scopus citations


We address covariance estimation in the sense of minimum mean-squared error (MMSE) when the samples are Gaussian distributed. Specifically, we consider shrinkage methods which are suitable for high dimensional problems with a small number of samples (large p small n). First, we improve on the Ledoit-Wolf (LW) method by conditioning on a sufficient statistic. By the Rao-Blackwell theorem, this yields a new estimator called RBLW, whose mean-squared error dominates that of LW for Gaussian variables. Second, to further reduce the estimation error, we propose an iterative approach which approximates the clairvoyant shrinkage estimator. Convergence of this iterative method is established and a closed form expression for the limit is determined, which is referred to as the oracle approximating shrinkage (OAS) estimator. Both RBLW and OAS estimators have simple expressions and are easily implemented. Although the two methods are developed from different perspectives, their structure is identical up to specified constants. The RBLW estimator provably dominates the LW method for Gaussian samples. Numerical simulations demonstrate that the OAS approach can perform even better than RBLW, especially when n is much less than p. We also demonstrate the performance of these techniques in the context of adaptive beamforming.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number5484583
Pages (from-to)5016-5029
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Signal Processing
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Manuscript received July 27, 2009; accepted May 12, 2010. Date of publication: June 14, 2010; date of current version September 15, 2010. The associate editor coordinating the review of this manuscript and approving it for publication was Prof. Hideaki Sakai. This work was supported in part by the AFOSR grant FA9550-06-1-0324 and NSF grant CCF 0830490. The work of A. Wiesel was supported by a Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowship within the 7th European Community Framework Programme.


  • Beamforming
  • covariance estimation
  • minimum mean-squared error (MMSE)
  • shrinkage


Dive into the research topics of 'Shrinkage algorithms for MMSE covariance estimation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this