Tag Archives: Linear Property

Variance and Expected Value Algebra

Linearity of Expected Value: Suppose X and Y are random variables and a and b are scalars.  The following relationships hold:

E[aX+b] = aE[X]+b

E[aX+bY] = aE[X] +bE[Y]


Var(aX+bY) = a^2Var(X)+2abCov(X,Y)+b^2Var(Y)

Suppose X_i for i=\left\{1\ldots n\right\} are n independent identically distributed (iid) random variables.  Then Cov(X_i,X_j) = 0 for i\ne j and

\displaystyle Var\left({\sum_{i=1}^n X_i}\right) = \sum_{i=1}^n Var(X_i)


X is the stock price of AAPL at market close.  Y is the sum of closing AAPL stock prices for 5 days.  Then

\begin{array}{rl} Var(Y) &= \displaystyle \sum_{i=1}^5 Var(X_i) \\ &= 5Var(X) \end{array}.  

Contrast this with the variance of Z = 5X.  In other words, Z is a random variable that takes a value of 5 times the price of AAPL at the close of any given day.  Then

\begin{array}{rl} Var(Z) &= Var(5X) \\ &=5^2Var(x) \end{array} 

The distinction between Y and Z is subtle but very important.

Variance of a Sample Mean:

In situations where the sample mean \bar{X} is a random variable over n iid observations (i.e. the average price of AAPL over 5 days), the following formula applies:

\begin{array}{rl} Var(\bar{X}) &= \displaystyle Var\left(\frac{1}{n} \displaystyle \sum_{i=1}^n X_i\right) \\ &= \displaystyle \frac{nVar(X)}{n^2} \\ &= \displaystyle \frac{Var(X)}{n} \end{array} 


Filed under Probability