# Simulating the OLS Consistency When X and ε are Dependent

# How to illustrate convergence in probability?

### Yihui Xie / 2021-06-09

This morning I saw an interesting tweet by Nick HK, who ran a simulation to convince himself of the fact that OLS consistency only requires Corr(X, ε) = 0 but not independence:

I still find it hard to believe that OLS consistency only relies on X being uncorrelated with ε, not independent of ε, and I occasionally run a simulation to re-convince myself.

I had no doubt about the conclusion, primarily because I had kindly returned most of the things I learned in the linear models class to the instructor after I passed the exams more than a decade ago (sorry, Dr. Nettleton!).

What I found not quite convincing was that Nick only ran the simulation once. A
single estimate of `$\beta$`

is not convincing to me to show that the OLS
estimator is consistent, even if its value (2.0014) is fairly close to the true
parameter (2).

BTW, this is off-topic, but usually I’m slightly less convinced about simulation results obtained from a fixed random seed. Fixing the seed is common practice for reproducibility, but reproducibility should be independent with the seed (for random simulations, I think reproducibility “in the ballpark” is more useful than “digit-to-digit” reproducibility).

## A silly counterexample

If we could conclude consistency from an estimate in one simulation, we would
conclude the same thing by estimating `$\beta$`

from the equation
`y = 2 * x + e`

, where `e = 0.0014 * x`

, which means ε and X are perfectly
correlated:

```
x = runif(10000)
e = .0014 * x
y = 2 * x + e # i.e., y = 2.0014x
lm(y ~ x)
```

Apparently it would not be sensible, even if we get the same estimated value (2.0014), to conclude that consistency still exists when Corr(X, ε) = 1.

## N needs to increase to illustrate consistency

If I remember correctly, consistency means convergence (of `$\hat{\beta}$`

to
`$\beta$`

) in probability, as the sample size N increases to infinity. That
means we need to examine the behavior of the estimator as N increases. Below is
a function to estimate the slope of the simple linear regression, with a slight
modification (changing `lm()`

to `lm.fit()`

for speed) based on Nick’s R code:

```
beta_est = function(N = 10) {
e = runif(N)
x = (e - .5) + 100 * (e - .5)^2 + rnorm(N)
y = 2 * x + e
res = lm.fit(cbind(1, x), y)
res$coefficients[2] # the slope
}
```

Next we estimate the coefficient 30 times for different sample sizes N = 10, 210, 410, ….

```
Ns = rep(seq(10, 15000, 200), each = 30)
bs = numeric(length(Ns))
for (i in seq_along(Ns)) {
bs[i] = beta_est(Ns[i])
}
```

Last we draw a scatterplot to illustrate how the estimate “converges” to its true value. Note that is is only an illustration of the overall trend. Of course, an illustration is not a proof.

```
par(mar = c(4, 4.5, .2, .2))
plot(
Ns, bs, cex = .6, col = 'gray',
xlab = 'N', ylab = expression(hat(beta))
)
abline(h = 2, lwd = 2)
points(10000, 2.0014, col = 'red', cex = 2, lwd = 2)
arrows(10000, 2.0014, 8000, 1.99, )
text(8000, 1.987, 'Estimate from the simulation
mentioned in the tweet')
```

I have also marked the value 2.0014 in the plot corresponding to the sample size 10000.

## Does it really converge to the true parameter value?

At the first glance, the estimator appears to be converging indeed. However, after I marked the true parameter value (again, 2) with a horizontal line in the plot, it seems that it is converging to a value slightly higher than 2.

I have to remind myself often that *seeing is not believing*. Instead, seeing
can be a good start of thinking. Why does not the estimator appear to converge
to 2? I do not know. I do not even know if I’m talking nonsense in this post (so
now you know that I’m no longer qualified to be called Dr.
Xie). My intuition is that
`$y \approx 2x + a\sqrt{x} + c$`

, where `$a$`

is a small constant. I will
appreciate it if anyone could give a rigorous explanation.

**Update on 2021/06/10**: Nick has given an
explanation, which is
quite obvious in hindsight. `X`

and `e`

are actually correlated in the above
simulation, because `X`

contains a linear term `e`

, i.e., for
`X = e + 100e^2 + Z`

, `e^2`

and `Z`

are not correlated with `e`

, but `e`

itself
is certainly correlated with `e`

. The correct simulation should be done without
the linear term in `X`

(or use `abs(e)`

, which is also not correlated with `e`

):

```
beta_est = function(N = 10) {
e = runif(N)
x = 100 * (e - .5)^2 + rnorm(N)
y = 2 * x + e
res = lm.fit(cbind(1, x), y)
res$coefficients[2] # the slope
}
```