In this paper, we provide a characterization of the expected value of monotone submodular set functions with $n$ pairwise independent random inputs.

Inspired by the notion of ``correlation gap'', we study the ratio of the maximum expected value of a function with arbitrary dependence among the random inputs with given marginal probabilities to the maximum expected value of the function with pairwise independent random inputs and the same marginal probabilities. Our results show that the ratio is upper bounded by: (a) $4/3$ for $n = 3$ with general marginal probabilities and any monotone submodular set function (b) $4/3$ for general $n$ with small and large marginal probabilities and any monotone submodular set function and (c) $4k/(4k-1)$ for general $n$, general identical probabilities and rank functions of $k$-uniform matroids. The bound is tight in all three cases. This contrasts with the $e/(e-1)$ bound on the correlation gap ratio for monotone submodular set functions with mutually independent random inputs (which is known to be tight in case (b)), and illustrates a fundamental difference in the behavior of submodular functions with weaker notions of independence. These results can be immediately extended beyond pairwise independence to correlated random inputs. We discuss applications in distributionally robust optimization and mechanism design and end the paper with a conjecture.

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View Submodularity, pairwise independence and correlation gap