Linear Classifiers Under Infinite Imbalance

Paul Glasserman, Mike Li

We study the behavior of linear discriminant functions for binary classification in the infinite-imbalance limit, where the sample size of one class grows without bound while the sample size of the other remains fixed. The coefficients of the classifier minimize an expected loss specified through a weight function. We show that for a broad class of weight functions, the intercept diverges but the rest of the coefficient vector has a finite limit under infinite imbalance, extending prior work on logistic regression. The limit depends on the left tail of the weight function, for which we distinguish three cases: bounded, asymptotically polynomial, and asymptotically exponential. The limiting coefficient vectors reflect robustness or conservatism properties in the sense that they optimize against certain worst-case alternatives. In the bounded and polynomial cases, the limit is equivalent to an implicit choice of upsampling distribution for the minority class. We apply these ideas in a credit risk setting, with particular emphasis on performance in the high-sensitivity and high-specificity regions.

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