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I encountered the following problem.

  • $\{x_t\}$: Markov chain in discrete time;

  • $\Omega$: a finite state space s.t. $|\Omega|=n<\infty$;

  • $\tau_w\equiv\min\{t\ge 0\,|\,x_t=w\}$, $w\in\Omega$ (first hitting time).

Prove: For each $T\ge 1$ and every $x,y\in \Omega$ $$\Pr(\tau_y=T|x_0=x)\le\frac nT.$$


Effort: This is a surprising result as the setup is terribly general. I proceeded by induction. Using recursive characterization, we have $$\Pr(\tau_y=T+1|x_0=x)=\sum_{z\ne y}\Pr(\tau_y=T|x_0=z)p(x,z),$$ where $p(x,z)=\Pr(x_{t+1}=x|x_t=z)$ is the transition probability. For each Markov chain, using the inductive hypothesis, we can easily confirm that this holds for $T$ sufficiently large. So far I cannot see how to show this for a general $T\ge n+1$.

Any hints or comments will be highly appreciated!

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Edit: this is wrong.

This seems incorrect. Multiplying both sides by T and summing over T we get $ E( \tau _y | x_0 =x) \leq n $. I don't see why this should be true in general.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please correct me if wrong. You meant that if the conclusion holds, we should necessarily have $T\Pr(\tau_y=T|x_0=x)\le n$ for each $T$. But when summing up the left-hand-side over $T$ to get expectation, we need also sum up the right-hand-side, which is the sum of infinitely many $n$, and thus is $\infty$, being true unconditionally. Would you clarify on this? Thanks! $\endgroup$ – OnoL Apr 17 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @onol oops you're right, what I wrote is nonsense $\endgroup$ – Amichai Lampert Apr 17 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ @AmichaiLampert Not a problem~ Thanks for your comments! $\endgroup$ – user146512 Apr 18 at 4:20

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