Apoorva Khare and I have updated our paper “On the sign patterns of entrywise positivity preservers in fixed dimension“, announced at this post from last month. The quantitative results are now sharpened using a new monotonicity property of ratios {s_{\lambda}(u)/s_{\mu}(u)} of Schur polynomials, namely that such ratios are monotone non-decreasing in each coordinate of {u} if {u} is in the positive orthant, and the partition {\lambda} is larger than that of {\mu}. (This monotonicity was also independently observed by Rachid Ait-Haddou, using the theory of blossoms.) In the revised version of the paper we give two proofs of this monotonicity. The first relies on a deep positivity result of Lam, Postnikov, and Pylyavskyy, which uses a representation-theoretic positivity result of Haiman to show that the polynomial combination

\displaystyle s_{(\lambda \wedge \nu) / (\mu \wedge \rho)} s_{(\lambda \vee \nu) / (\mu \vee \rho)} - s_{\lambda/\mu} s_{\nu/\rho} \ \ \ \ \ (1)

of skew-Schur polynomials is Schur-positive for any partitions {\lambda,\mu,\nu,\rho} (using the convention that the skew-Schur polynomial {s_{\lambda/\mu}} vanishes if {\mu} is not contained in {\lambda}, and where {\lambda \wedge \nu} and {\lambda \vee \nu} denotes the pointwise min and max of {\lambda} and {\nu} respectively). It is fairly easy to derive the monotonicity of {s_\lambda(u)/s_\mu(u)} from this, by using the expansion

\displaystyle s_\lambda(u_1,\dots, u_n) = \sum_k u_1^k s_{\lambda/(k)}(u_2,\dots,u_n)

of Schur polynomials into skew-Schur polynomials (as was done in this previous post).

The second proof of monotonicity avoids representation theory by a more elementary argument establishing the weaker claim that the above expression (1) is non-negative on the positive orthant. In fact we prove a more general determinantal log-supermodularity claim which may be of independent interest:

Theorem 1 Let {A} be any {n \times n} totally positive matrix (thus, every minor has a non-negative determinant). Then for any {k}-tuples {I_1,I_2,J_1,J_2} of increasing elements of {\{1,\dots,n\}}, one has

\displaystyle \det( A_{I_1 \wedge I_2, J_1 \wedge J_2} ) \det( A_{I_1 \vee I_2, J_1 \vee J_2} ) - \det(A_{I_1,J_1}) \det(A_{I_2,J_2}) \geq 0

where {A_{I,J}} denotes the {k \times k} minor formed from the rows in {I} and columns in {J}.

For instance, if {A} is the matrix

\displaystyle A = \begin{pmatrix} a & b & c & d \\ e & f & g & h \\ i & j & k & l \\ m & n & o & p \end{pmatrix}

for some real numbers {a,\dots,p}, one has

\displaystyle a h - de\geq 0

(corresponding to the case {k=1}, {I_1 = (1), I_2 = (2), J_1 = (4), J_2 = (1)}), or

\displaystyle \det \begin{pmatrix} a & c \\ i & k \end{pmatrix} \det \begin{pmatrix} f & h \\ n & p \end{pmatrix} - \det \begin{pmatrix} e & h \\ i & l \end{pmatrix} \det \begin{pmatrix} b & c \\ n & o \end{pmatrix} \geq 0

(corresponding to the case {k=2}, {I_1 = (2,3)}, {I_2 = (1,4)}, {J_1 = (1,4)}, {J_2 = (2,3)}). It turns out that this claim can be proven relatively easy by an induction argument, relying on the Dodgson and Karlin identities from this previous post; the difficulties are largely notational in nature. Combining this result with the Jacobi-Trudi identity for skew-Schur polynomials (discussed in this previous post) gives the non-negativity of (1); it can also be used to directly establish the monotonicity of ratios {s_\lambda(u)/s_\mu(u)} by applying the theorem to a generalised Vandermonde matrix.

(Log-supermodularity also arises as the natural hypothesis for the FKG inequality, though I do not know of any interesting application of the FKG inequality in this current setting.)