Rao-Cramér inequality

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Cramér–Rao inequality, Fréchet inequality, information inequality

An inequality in mathematical statistics that establishes a lower bound for the risk corresponding to a quadratic loss function in the problem of estimating an unknown parameter.

Suppose that the probability distribution of a random vector with values in the -dimensional Euclidean space is defined by a density , , . Suppose that a statistic such that

is used as an estimator for the unknown scalar parameter , where is a differentiable function, called the bias of . Then under certain regularity conditions on the family , one of which is that the Fisher information

is not zero, the Cramér–Rao inequality


holds. This inequality gives a lower bound for the mean-square error of all estimators for the unknown parameter that have the same bias function .

In particular, if is an unbiased estimator for , that is, if , then (1) implies that


Thus, in this case the Cramér–Rao inequality provides a lower bound for the variance of the unbiased estimators for , equal to , and also demonstrates that the existence of consistent estimators (cf. Consistent estimator) is connected with unrestricted growth of the Fisher information as . If equality is attained in (2) for a certain unbiased estimator , then is optimal in the class of all unbiased estimators with regard to minimum quadratic risk; it is called an efficient estimator. For example, if are independent random variables subject to the same normal law , then is an efficient estimator of the unknown mean .

In general, equality in (2) is attained if and only if is an exponential family, that is, if the probability density of can be represented in the form

in which case the sufficient statistic is an efficient estimator of its expectation . If no efficient estimator exists, the lower bound of the variances of the unbiased estimators can be refined, since the Cramér–Rao inequality does not necessarily give the greatest lower bound. For example, if are independent random variables with the same normal distribution , then the greatest lower bound to the variance of unbiased estimators of is equal to


In general, absence of equality in (2) does not mean that the estimator that has been found is not optimal, since it may well be the only unbiased estimator.

There are different generalizations of the Cramér–Rao inequality, to the case of a vector parameter, or to that of estimating a function of the parameter. Refinements of the lower bound in (2) play an important role in such cases.

The inequality (1) was independently obtained by M. Fréchet, C.R. Rao and H. Cramér.


[1] H. Cramér, "Mathematical methods of statistics" , Princeton Univ. Press (1946)
[2] B.L. van der Waerden, "Mathematische Statistik" , Springer (1957)
[3] L.N. Bol'shev, "A refinement of the Cramér–Rao inequality" Theory Probab. Appl. , 6 (1961) pp. 295–301 Teor. Veryatnost. Primenen. , 6 : 3 (1961) pp. 319–326
[4a] A. Bhattacharyya, "On some analogues of the amount of information and their uses in statistical estimation, Chapt. I" Sankhyā , 8 : 1 (1946) pp. 1–14
[4b] A. Bhattacharyya, "On some analogues of the amount of information and their uses in statistical estimation, Chapt. II-III" Sankhyā , 8 : 3 (1947) pp. 201–218
[4c] A. Bhattacharyya, "On some analogues of the amount of information and their uses in statistical estimation, Chapt. IV" Sankhyā , 8 : 4 (1948) pp. 315–328



[a1] E.L. Lehmann, "Theory of point estimation" , Wiley (1983)
How to Cite This Entry:
Rao-Cramér inequality. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by M.S. Nikulin (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article