High-dimensional independence testing with maxima of rank correlations
Testing mutual independence for high-dimensional observations is a fundamental statistical challenge. Popular tests based on linear and simple rank correlations are known to be incapable of detecting non-linear, non-monotone relationships, calling for methods that can account for such dependences. To address this challenge, we propose a family of tests that are constructed using maxima of pairwise rank correlations that permit consistent assessment of pairwise independence. Built upon a newly developed Cramér-type moderate deviation theorem for degenerate U-statistics, our results cover a variety of rank correlations including Hoeffding's D, Blum--Kiefer--Rosenblatt's R, and Bergsma--Dassios--Yanagimoto's τ^*. The proposed tests are distribution-free in the class of multivariate distributions with continuous margin, implementable without the need for permutation, and are shown to be rate-optimal against sparse alternatives under the Gaussian copula model. As a by-product of the study, we reveal an identity between the aforementioned three rank correlation statistics, and hence make a step towards proving a conjecture of Bergsma and Dassios (2014).