Let $X\sim N(0,1)$, compute $\mathrm E[X^3]$:

My attempt:

$$ \mathrm E[X^3]=\int_{-\infty}^{\infty}x^3\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{-\frac{x^2}{2}}\mathrm d x \\ x^2=t \Rightarrow \mathrm dx=\frac{\mathrm dt}{2x}\\ \mathrm E[X^3]=\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}\int_{0}^{\infty} t\frac{1}{2}e^{-\frac{t}{2}}\mathrm dt=\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}E[Y] \\ Y\sim \exp(\frac{1}{2}) \\ \Rightarrow \mathrm E[X^3]=\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}\frac{1!}{0.5^1}=\frac{2}{\sqrt{2\pi}} $$

I used the fact that if $X\sim \exp(\lambda)$ then $\mathrm E[X^n]=\dfrac{n!}{\lambda^n}$

But the actual is result is $0$! Why is that? what am I missing here??


  • $\begingroup$ Observe that the first written integrand takes negative values, and the second does not. Btw, $X$ and $-X$ have equal distribution. So also $X^3$ and $(-X)^3=-X^3$ have equal distribution so that $\mathbb EX^3=\mathbb E[-X^3]=-\mathbb EX^3$. This implies that $\mathbb EX^3=0$. $\endgroup$ – drhab Feb 11 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ @drhab I am not sure I'm following $\endgroup$ – superuser123 Feb 11 at 10:19
  • $\begingroup$ You integrate an odd function on a symmetric interval... $\endgroup$ – Bertrand Feb 11 at 10:25
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The change of variable formula is not valid here. Read the theorem on change of variables in baby Rudin. $\endgroup$ – Kavi Rama Murthy Feb 11 at 10:28

Your change of variables is off. If you want to reason on integral (though drhab reasonning is much simpler) :

$$ E[X^3]=\int_{-\infty}^{+\infty} x^3\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{-x^2/2}dx$$ $$ E[X^3]=\int_{-\infty}^{0} x^3\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{-x^2/2}dx + \int_{0}^{+\infty} x^3\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{-x^2/2}dx$$ Applying the change of variable $x\mapsto -x$ in the first integral, step by step $$ E[X^3]=\int_{+\infty}^{0} (-x)^3\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{-x^2/2}(-dx) + \int_{0}^{+\infty} x^3\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{-x^2/2}dx$$ $$ E[X^3]=\int_{+\infty}^{0} x^3\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{-x^2/2}dx + \int_{0}^{+\infty} x^3\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{-x^2/2}dx$$ $$ E[X^3]=-\int_{0}^{+\infty} x^3\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{-x^2/2}dx + \int_{0}^{+\infty} x^3\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{-x^2/2}dx$$ $$E[X^3]=0$$


Your change of variable is valid, but not as regards the integration range.

If $x$ runs from $-\infty$ to $\infty$, $t:=x^2$ runs from $\infty$ to $0$ then back to $\infty$, and the two contributions cancel each other.

The good news is that your one-sided integral, from $0$ to $\infty$ is correct.


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