Generalized R-squared for detecting dependence

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Abstract

Detecting dependence between two random variables is a fundamental problem. Although the Pearson correlation coefficient is effective for capturing linear dependence, it can be entirely powerless for detecting nonlinear and/or heteroscedastic patterns. We introduce a new measure, G-squared, to test whether two univariate random variables are independent and to measure the strength of their relationship. The G-squared statistic is almost identical to the square of the Pearson correlation coefficient, R-squared, for linear relationships with constant error variance, and has the intuitive meaning of the piecewise R-squared between the variables. It is particularly effective in handling nonlinearity and heteroscedastic errors. We propose two estimators of G-squared and show their consistency. Simulations demonstrate that G-squared estimators are among the most powerful test statistics compared with several state-of-the-art methods.

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