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In statistics, the method of moments is a method of estimation of population parameters.

It starts by expressing the population moments (i.e., the expected values of powers of the random variable under consideration) as functions of the parameters of interest. Those expressions are then set equal to the sample moments. The number of such equations is the same as the number of parameters to be estimated. Those equations are then solved for the parameters of interest. The solutions are estimates of those parameters. The method of moments was introduced by Pafnuty Chebyshev in 1887.

MethodEdit

Suppose that the problem is to estimate   unknown parameters   characterizing the distribution   of the random variable  .[1] Suppose the first   moments of the true distribution (the "population moments") can be expressed as functions of the  s:

 

Suppose a sample of size   is drawn, resulting in the values  . For  , let

 

be the j-th sample moment, an estimate of  . The method of moments estimator for   denoted by   is defined as the solution (if there is one) to the equations:[citation needed]

 

Advantages and disadvantagesEdit

The method of moments is fairly simple and yields consistent estimators (under very weak assumptions), though these estimators are often biased.

In some respects, when estimating parameters of a known family of probability distributions, this method was superseded by Fisher's method of maximum likelihood, because maximum likelihood estimators have higher probability of being close to the quantities to be estimated and are more often unbiased[citation needed].

However, in some cases the likelihood equations may be intractable without computers, whereas the method-of-moments estimators can be quickly and easily calculated by hand.

Estimates by the method of moments may be used as the first approximation to the solutions of the likelihood equations, and successive improved approximations may then be found by the Newton–Raphson method. In this way the method of moments can assist in finding maximum likelihood estimates.

In some cases, infrequent with large samples but not so infrequent with small samples, the estimates given by the method of moments are outside of the parameter space (as shown in the example below); it does not make sense to rely on them then. That problem never arises in the method of maximum likelihood[citation needed]. Also, estimates by the method of moments are not necessarily sufficient statistics, i.e., they sometimes fail to take into account all relevant information in the sample.

When estimating other structural parameters (e.g., parameters of a utility function, instead of parameters of a known probability distribution), appropriate probability distributions may not be known, and moment-based estimates may be preferred to maximum likelihood estimation.

ExamplesEdit

An example application of the method of moments is to estimate polynomial probability density distributions. In this case, an approximate polynomial of order   is defined on an interval  . The method of moments then yields a system of equations, whose solution involves the inversion of a Hankel matrix.[2]

Uniform distributionEdit

Consider the uniform distribution on the interval  ,  . If   then we have

 
 

Solving these equations gives

 
 

Given a set of samples   we can use the sample moments   and   in these formulae in order to estimate   and  .

Note, however, that this method can produce inconsistent results in some cases. For example, the set of samples   results in the estimate   even though   and so it is impossible for the set   to have been drawn from   in this case.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ K. O. Bowman and L. R. Shenton, "Estimator: Method of Moments", pp 2092–2098, Encyclopedia of statistical sciences, Wiley (1998).
  2. ^ J. Munkhammar, L. Mattsson, J. Rydén (2017) "Polynomial probability distribution estimation using the method of moments". PLoS ONE 12(4): e0174573. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174573