Levy processes

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A Lévy process is an important type of stochastic process (namely, a family of $\mathbb{R}^d$ valued random variables each indexed by a positive number $t\geq 0$). In the context of parabolic integro-differential equations they play the same role that Brownian motion and more general diffusions play in the theory of second order parabolic equations.

Informally speaking, a Lévy process is a Brownian motion which may jump, the times, length and direction of the jumps being random variables. A prototypical example would be $X(t)=B(t)+N(t)$ where $B(t)$ is the standard Brownian motion and $N(t)$ is a Compound Poisson process, the trajectory described by typical sample path of this process would look like the union of several disconnected Brownian motion paths.


A stochastic process $X=\{X(t)\}_{t \geq 0}$ with values in $\mathbb{R}^d$ is said to be a Lévy process if

1.For any sequence $0 \leq t_1 < t_2 <...<t_n$ the random variables $X(t_0),X(t_1)-X(t_0),...,X(t_n)-X(t_{n-1})$ are independent.

2.For any positive times $s\leq t$ the random variables $X(t-s)$ and $X(t)-X(s)$ have the same probability law.

3.Almost surely, the trajectory of $X(t)$ is continuous from the right, with limit from the left also known as "càdlàg" for its acronym in french.

Lévy-Khintchine Formula

It follows from the first two properties above that if $X$ is a Lévy process and we further assume $X(0)=0$ a.s. then for each fixed positive $t$ the random variable $X(t)$ is infinitely divisible, that is, it can be written as the sum of $n$ independent and identically distribued random variables, for all $n\in\mathbb{N}$. Indeed, let $h=\tfrac{t}{n}$, then

\[X(t) = \left( X(h)-X(0)\right)+\left( X(2h)-X(h)\right)+...+\left( X(t)-X((n-1)h)\right)\]

and by the above definition the differences $X(kh)-X((k-1)h)$ are independent and distributed the same as $X(h)$. From the infinite divisibility of $X(t)$ it follows by a theorem of Lévy and Khintchine that for any $\xi \in \mathbb{R}^d$ we have

\[ \mathbb{E} \left [ e^{i\xi\cdot X_t}\right ] = e^{t\eta(\xi)}\]

the function $\eta(\xi)$ given by

\[\eta(\xi)=y\cdot b i -\tfrac{1}{2}(A\xi,\xi)+\int_{\mathbb{R}^d} \left ( e^{\xi\cdot y}-1-i\xi\cdot y \chi_{B_1}(y) \right ) d\mu(y) \]

where $b$ is a vector, $A$ is a positive matrix and $\mu$ is a Lévy measure, that is, a Borel measure in $\mathbb{R}^d$ such that

\[ \int_{\mathbb{R}^d}\frac{|y|^2}{1+|y|^2}d\mu(y) <+\infty \]

Semigroup and infinitesimal generator

Any Lévy process $X(t)$ such that $X(0)=0$ almost surely defines a semigroup $\{U_t\}_{t\geq0}$ on the space of continuous functions $f:\mathbb{R}^d\to\mathbb{R}^d$ as follows

\[(U_tf)(x)= \mathbb{E}\left [ f(x+X(t) \right ]\]

Given the initial assumption on $X(0)$ it is clear that $U_0$ is the identity, and given that $X(t)-X(s)$ is distributed as $X(t-s)$ it follows that $U_t \circ U_s = U_{t+s}$.

As a semigroup, $U_t$ has an infinitesimal generator which turns out to be a Linear integro-differential operator. More precisely, if we let $f(x,t):=(U_tf)(x)$, then, assuming that $f(x,t)$ has enough regularity it can be checked that

\[\partial_t f = Lf \;\;\;\mbox{ for all } (x,t)\in\mathbb{R}^d\times \mathbb{R}_+\]

where for any smooth function $\phi$, we have

\[ L\phi(x) = b \cdot \nabla \phi(x) +\mathrm{tr} \,( A\cdot D^2 \phi )+ \int_{\R^d} (\phi(x+y) - \phi(x) - y \cdot \nabla \phi(x) \chi_{B_1}(y)) \, \mathrm{d} \mu(y) \]

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