4.2 Least squares estimation

In practice, of course, we have a collection of observations but we do not know the values of $\beta_0$ and $\beta_1$. These need to be estimated from the data. We call this “fitting a line through the data”.

There are many possible choices for $\beta_0$ and $\beta_1$, each choice giving a different line. The least squares principle provides a way of choosing $\beta_0$ and $\beta_1$ effectively by minimizing the sum of the squared errors. That is, we choose the values of $\beta_0$ and $\beta_1$ that minimize

$$\sum_{i=1}^N \varepsilon_i^2 = \sum_{i=1}^N (y_i - \beta_0 - \beta_1x_i)^2. $$

Using mathematical calculus, it can be shown that the resulting least squares estimators are

$$\hat{\beta}_1=\frac{ \sum_{i=1}^{N}(y_i-\bar{y})(x_i-\bar{x})}{\sum_{i=1}^{N}(x_i-\bar{x})^2} $$


$$\hat{\beta}_0=\bar{y}-\hat{\beta}_1\bar{x}, $$

where $\bar{x}$ is the average of the $x$ observations and $\bar{y}$ is the average of the $y$ observations. The estimated line is known as the “regression line” and is shown in Figure 4.2.

Figure 4.2: Estimated regression line for a random sample of size N.

We imagine that there is a “true” line denoted by $y=\beta_0+\beta_1x$ (shown as the dashed green line in Figure 4.2, but we do not know $\beta_0$ and $\beta_1$ so we cannot use this line for forecasting. Therefore we obtain estimates $\hat{\beta}_0$ and $\hat{\beta}_1$ from the observed data to give the “regression line” (the solid purple line in Figure 4.2).

The regression line is used for forecasting. For each value of $x$, we can forecast a corresponding value of $y$ using $\hat{y}=\hat{\beta}_0+\hat{\beta}_1x$.

Fitted values and residuals

The forecast values of $y$ obtained from the observed $x$ values are called “fitted values”. We write these as $\hat{y}_i=\hat{\beta}_0+\hat{\beta}_1x_i$, for $i=1,\dots,N$. Each $\hat{y}_i$ is the point on the regression line corresponding to observation $x_i$.

The difference between the observed $y$ values and the corresponding fitted values are the “residuals”:

$$e_i = y_i - \hat{y}_i = y_i -\hat{\beta}_0-\hat{\beta}_1x_i. $$

The residuals have some useful properties including the following two:

$$\sum_{i=1}^{N}{e_i}=0 \quad\text{and}\quad \sum_{i=1}^{N}{x_ie_i}=0. $$

As a result of these properties, it is clear that the average of the residuals is zero, and that the correlation between the residuals and the observations for the predictor variable is also zero.