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From Mahalanobis to Bregman via Monge and Kantorovich towards a “General Generalised Distance”


  • Marc Hallin


In his celebrated 1936 paper on “the generalized distance in statistics,” P.C. Mahalanobis pioneered the idea that, when defined over a space equipped with some probability measure P, a meaningful distance should be P-specific, with data-driven empirical counterpart. The so-called Mahalanobis distance and the corresponding Mahalanobis outlyingness achieve this objective in the case of a Gaussian P by mapping P to the spherical standard Gaussian, via a transformation based on second-order moments which appears to be an optimal transport in the Monge-Kantorovich sense. In a non-Gaussian context, though, one may feel that second-order moments are not informative enough, or inappropriate; moreover, they might not exist. We therefore propose a distance that fully takes the underlying P into account—not just its second-order features—by considering the potential that characterizes the optimal transport mapping P to the uniform over the unit ball, along with a symmetrized version of the corresponding Bregman divergence.

Suggested Citation

  • Marc Hallin, 2018. "From Mahalanobis to Bregman via Monge and Kantorovich towards a “General Generalised Distance”," Working Papers ECARES 2018-12, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:eca:wpaper:2013/270860

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alfred Galichon, 2016. "Optimal transport methods in economics," Post-Print hal-03256830, HAL.
    2. repec:hal:spmain:info:hdl:2441/64itsev5509q8aa5mrbhi0g0b6 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Victor Chernozhukov & Alfred Galichon & Marc Hallin & Marc Henry, 2014. "Monge-Kantorovich Depth, Quantiles, Ranks, and Signs," Papers 1412.8434,, revised Sep 2015.
    4. Marc Hallin, 2017. "On Distribution and Quantile Functions, Ranks and Signs in R_d," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2017-34, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    5. Alfred Galichon, 2016. "Optimal Transport Methods in Economics," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 10870.
    6. Eustasio Del Barrio & Juan Cuesta Albertos & Marc Hallin & Carlos Matran, 2018. "Smooth Cyclically Monotone Interpolation and Empirical Center-Outward Distribution Functions," Working Papers ECARES 2018-15, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    7. Martin Burger, 2016. "Bregman Distances in Inverse Problems and Partial Differential Equations," Springer Optimization and Its Applications, in: Jean-Baptiste Hiriart-Urruty & Adam Korytowski & Helmut Maurer & Maciej Szymkat (ed.), Advances in Mathematical Modeling, Optimization and Optimal Control, pages 3-33, Springer.
    8. repec:hal:spmain:info:hdl:2441/4c5431jp6o888pdrcs0fuirl40 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Genest, Christian & Rivest, Louis-Paul, 2001. "On the multivariate probability integral transformation," Statistics & Probability Letters, Elsevier, vol. 53(4), pages 391-399, July.
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