Optimality of Message-Passing Architectures for Sparse Graphs

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Aseem Baranwal, Kimon Fountoulakis, Aukosh Jagannath


We study the node classification problem on feature-decorated graphs in the sparse setting, i.e., when the expected degree of a node is $O(1)$ in the number of nodes, in the fixed-dimensional asymptotic regime, i.e., the dimension of the feature data is fixed while the number of nodes is large. Such graphs are typically known to be locally tree-like. We introduce a notion of Bayes optimality for node classification tasks, called asymptotic local Bayes optimality, and compute the optimal classifier according to this criterion for a fairly general statistical data model with arbitrary distributions of the node features and edge connectivity. The optimal classifier is implementable using a message-passing graph neural network architecture. We then compute the generalization error of this classifier and compare its performance against existing learning methods theoretically on a well-studied statistical model with naturally identifiable signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) in the data. We find that the optimal message-passing architecture interpolates between a standard MLP in the regime of low graph signal and a typical convolution in the regime of high graph signal. Furthermore, we prove a corresponding non-asymptotic result.