Bagging Improves Generalization Exponentially

23 May 2024  ·  Huajie Qian, Donghao Ying, Henry Lam, Wotao Yin ·

Bagging is a popular ensemble technique to improve the accuracy of machine learning models. It hinges on the well-established rationale that, by repeatedly retraining on resampled data, the aggregated model exhibits lower variance and hence higher stability, especially for discontinuous base learners. In this paper, we provide a new perspective on bagging: By suitably aggregating the base learners at the parametrization instead of the output level, bagging improves generalization performances exponentially, a strength that is significantly more powerful than variance reduction. More precisely, we show that for general stochastic optimization problems that suffer from slowly (i.e., polynomially) decaying generalization errors, bagging can effectively reduce these errors to an exponential decay. Moreover, this power of bagging is agnostic to the solution schemes, including common empirical risk minimization, distributionally robust optimization, and various regularizations. We demonstrate how bagging can substantially improve generalization performances in a range of examples involving heavy-tailed data that suffer from intrinsically slow rates.

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