Let $X_1,\ldots,X_n$ be i.i.d. random variables with a common density function given by:

$f(x\mid\theta)=\theta x^{\theta-1}$

for $x\in[0,1]$ and $\theta>0$.

Clearly this is a $\operatorname{BETA}(\theta,1)$ distribution. Calculate the maximum likelihood estimator of $\theta$.

After going through all the steps with the log likelihood, I end up calculating that the maximum likelihood estimator is $\hat\theta$ below: $$L:=\prod_{i=1}^N\theta x_i^{\theta-1}$$ $$l:=\ln(L)=\ln\left(\prod_{i=1}^N\theta x_i^{\theta-1}\right)=n\ln(\theta)+\sum_{i=1}^n(\theta-1)\ln(x_i)$$ $$\frac{dl}{d\theta}=\frac{n}{\theta}+\sum_{i=1}^n\ln(x_i)$$ $$\hat \theta=\frac{-n}{\sum_{i=1}^n\ln(x_i)}$$

But something about this doesn't look quite right to me. Did I go wrong somewhere?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ if you're worried that its negative, i think its okay, the denominator will be non-positive because x is a fraction. The negative in the numerator will cancel. $\endgroup$
    – yoshi
    Feb 14, 2018 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ Right, but does my method for deriving the MLE look correct? $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2018 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ More general discussion on Wikipedia article on beta distributions, under MLE. $\endgroup$
    – BruceET
    Feb 14, 2018 at 2:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ereHsaWyhsipS : You seem to have correctly found the only critical point of the likelihood function, but being a critical point doesn't always means there's a maximum there. So your argument for the proposition that that's where the absolute maximum occurs is incomplete. $\endgroup$ Feb 15, 2018 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ The MLE is indeed correct. Why doesn't it look right? It is a function of the sufficient statistic $\sum \ln X_i$ after all. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2018 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


Additional comments: Your answer seems OK. It may be of interest to know that $\hat \theta$ is not unbiased. One can get a rough idea of the distribution of $\hat \theta$ for a particular $\theta$ by simulating many samples of size $n.$ I don't know of a convenient 'unbiasing' constant multiple. The Wikipedia article I linked in my Comment above gives more information.

Here is a simulation for $n = 10$ and $\theta = 5.$

th = 5;  n = 10
th.mle = -n/replicate(10^6, sum(log(rbeta(n, th, 1))))
## 5.555069   # aprx expectation of th.mle > th = 5.
## 5.172145

The histogram below shows the simulated distribution of $\hat \theta.$ The vertical red line is at the mean of that distribution, and the green curve is its kernel density estimator (KDE). According to the KDE, its mode is near $4.62.$

enter image description here

den.inf = density(th.mle)
## 4.624876

hist(th.mle, br=50, prob=T, col="skyblue2", main="")
abline(v = mean(th.mle), col="red")
lines(density(th.mle), lwd=2, col="darkgreen")

Addendum on Parametric Bootstrap Confidence Interval for $\theta:$

In order to find a confidence interval (CI) for $\theta$ based on MLE $\hat \theta,$ we would like to know the distribution of $V = \frac{\hat \theta}{\theta}.$ When that distribution is not readily available, we can use a parametric bootstrap.

If we knew the distribution of $V,$ then we could find numbers $L$ and $U$ such that $P(L \le V = \hat\theta/\theta \le U) = 0.95$ so that a 95% CI would be of the form $\left(\frac{\hat \theta}{U},\, \frac{\hat\theta}{L}\right).$ Because we do not know the distribution of $V$ we use a bootstrap procedure to get serviceable approximations $L^*$ and $U^*$ of $L$ and $U.$ respectively.

To begin, suppose we have a random sample of size $n = 50$ from $\mathsf{Beta}(\theta, 1)$ where $\theta$ is unknown and its observed MLE is $\hat \theta = 6.511.$

Entering, the so-called 'bootstrap world'. we take repeated 're-samples` of size $n=50$ from $\mathsf{Beta}(\hat \theta =6.511, 0),$ Then we we find the bootstrap estimate $\hat \theta^*$ from each re-sample. Temporarily using the observed MLE $\hat \theta = 6.511$ as a proxy for the unknown $\theta,$ we find a large number $B$ of re-sampled values $V^* = \hat\theta^2/\hat \theta.$ Then we use quantiles .02 and .97 of these $V^*$'s as $L^*$ and $U^*,$ respectively.

Returning to the 'real world' the observed MLE $\hat \theta$ returns to its original role as an estimator, and the 95% parametric bootstrap CI is $\left(\frac{\hat\theta}{U^*},\, \frac{\hat\theta}{L^*}\right).$

The R code, in which re-sampled quantities are denoted by .re instead of $*$, is shown below. For this run with set.seed(213) the 95% CI is $(4.94, 8.69).$ Other runs with unspecified seeds using $B=10,000$ re-samples of size $n = 50$ will give very similar values. [In a real-life application, we would not know whether this CI covers the 'true' value of $\theta.$ However, I generated the original 50 observations using parameter value $\theta = 6.5,$ so in this demonstration we do know that the CI covers the true parameter value $\theta.$ We could have used the probability-symmetric CI with quantiles .025 and .975, but the one shown is a little shorter.]

B = 10000;  n = 50;  th.mle.obs=6.511
v.re = th.mle.obs/replicate(B, -n/sum(log(rbeta(n,th.mle.obs,1))))
L.re = quantile(v.re, .02);  U.re = quantile(v.re, .97)
c(th.mle.obs/U.re, th.mle.obs/L.re)
##     98%       3% 
## 4.936096 8.691692 
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I appreciate the additional information. But what program did you provide code for that produced that simulation? $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2018 at 2:44
  • $\begingroup$ That R statistical software, should have said. Since you're interested in the code, I just appended the code to make the figure. $\endgroup$
    – BruceET
    Feb 14, 2018 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, can't wait to try it out. I appreciate it! $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2018 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ If you're experimenting with code, you might want to try making a nonparametric bootstrap confidence interval based on your MLE of $\theta.$ Code is shown in the Addendum. If you have questions about procedure or code, please leave a Comment. $\endgroup$
    – BruceET
    Feb 14, 2018 at 7:17

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