James-Stein for the Leading Eigenvector


Recent research identifies and corrects bias, such as excess dispersion, in the leading sample eigenvector of a factor-based covariance matrix estimated from a high-dimension low sample size (HL) data set. We show that eigenvector bias can have a substantial impact on variance-minimizing optimization in the HL regime, while bias in estimated eigenvalues may have little effect. We describe a data-driven eigenvector shrinkage estimator in the HL regime called “James–Stein for eigenvectors” (JSE) and its close relationship with the James–Stein (JS) estimator for a collection of averages. We show, both theoretically and with numerical experiments, that, for certain variance-minimizing problems of practical importance, efforts to correct eigenvalues have little value in comparison to the JSE correction of the leading eigenvector. When certain extra information is present, JSE is a consistent estimator of the leading eigenvector.

Publication date: 
January 5, 2023
Publication type: 
Journal Article