The cumulative empirical spectral measure (CESM) $\Phi[\mathbf{A}] : \mathbb{R} \to [0,1]$ of a $n\times n$ symmetric matrix $\mathbf{A}$ is defined as the fraction of eigenvalues of $\mathbf{A}$ less than a given threshold, i.e., $\Phi[\mathbf{A}](x) := \sum_{i=1}^{n} \frac{1}{n} {\large\unicode{x1D7D9}}[ \lambda_i[\mathbf{A}]\leq x]$. Spectral sums $\operatorname{tr}(f[\mathbf{A}])$ can be computed as the Riemann--Stieltjes integral of $f$ against $\Phi[\mathbf{A}]$, so the task of estimating CESM arises frequently in a number of applications, including machine learning. We present an error analysis for stochastic Lanczos quadrature (SLQ). We show that SLQ obtains an approximation to the CESM within a Wasserstein distance of $t \: | \lambda_{\text{max}}[\mathbf{A}] - \lambda_{\text{min}}[\mathbf{A}] |$ with probability at least $1-\eta$, by applying the Lanczos algorithm for $\lceil 12 t^{-1} + \frac{1}{2} \rceil$ iterations to $\lceil 4 ( n+2 )^{-1}t^{-2} \ln(2n\eta^{-1}) \rceil$ vectors sampled independently and uniformly from the unit sphere. We additionally provide (matrix-dependent) a posteriori error bounds for the Wasserstein and Kolmogorov--Smirnov distances between the output of this algorithm and the true CESM. The quality of our bounds is demonstrated using numerical experiments.

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