Spearman's rho - overview

This page offers structured overviews of one or more selected methods. Add additional methods for comparisons by clicking on the dropdown button in the right-hand column. To practice with a specific method click the button at the bottom row of the table

Spearman's rho
$z$ test for a single proportion
Variable 1Independent variable
One of ordinal levelNone
Variable 2Dependent variable
One of ordinal levelOne categorical with 2 independent groups
Null hypothesisNull hypothesis
H0: $\rho_s = 0$

Here $\rho_s$ is the Spearman correlation in the population. The Spearman correlation is a measure for the strength and direction of the monotonic relationship between two variables of at least ordinal measurement level.

In words, the null hypothesis would be:

H0: there is no monotonic relationship between the two variables in the population.
H0: $\pi = \pi_0$

Here $\pi$ is the population proportion of 'successes', and $\pi_0$ is the population proportion of successes according to the null hypothesis.
Alternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesis
H1 two sided: $\rho_s \neq 0$
H1 right sided: $\rho_s > 0$
H1 left sided: $\rho_s < 0$
H1 two sided: $\pi \neq \pi_0$
H1 right sided: $\pi > \pi_0$
H1 left sided: $\pi < \pi_0$
AssumptionsAssumptions
  • Sample of pairs is a simple random sample from the population of pairs. That is, pairs are independent of one another
Note: this assumption is only important for the significance test, not for the correlation coefficient itself. The correlation coefficient itself just measures the strength of the monotonic relationship between two variables.
  • Sample size is large enough for $z$ to be approximately normally distributed. Rule of thumb:
    • Significance test: $N \times \pi_0$ and $N \times (1 - \pi_0)$ are each larger than 10
    • Regular (large sample) 90%, 95%, or 99% confidence interval: number of successes and number of failures in sample are each 15 or more
    • Plus four 90%, 95%, or 99% confidence interval: total sample size is 10 or more
  • Sample is a simple random sample from the population. That is, observations are independent of one another
If the sample size is too small for $z$ to be approximately normally distributed, the binomial test for a single proportion should be used.
Test statisticTest statistic
$t = \dfrac{r_s \times \sqrt{N - 2}}{\sqrt{1 - r_s^2}} $
Here $r_s$ is the sample Spearman correlation and $N$ is the sample size. The sample Spearman correlation $r_s$ is equal to the Pearson correlation applied to the rank scores.
$z = \dfrac{p - \pi_0}{\sqrt{\dfrac{\pi_0(1 - \pi_0)}{N}}}$
Here $p$ is the sample proportion of successes: $\dfrac{X}{N}$, $N$ is the sample size, and $\pi_0$ is the population proportion of successes according to the null hypothesis.
Sampling distribution of $t$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $z$ if H0 were true
Approximately the $t$ distribution with $N - 2$ degrees of freedomApproximately the standard normal distribution
Significant?Significant?
Two sided: Right sided: Left sided: Two sided: Right sided: Left sided:
n.a.Approximate $C\%$ confidence interval for $\pi$
-Regular (large sample):
  • $p \pm z^* \times \sqrt{\dfrac{p(1 - p)}{N}}$
    where the critical value $z^*$ is the value under the normal curve with the area $C / 100$ between $-z^*$ and $z^*$ (e.g. $z^*$ = 1.96 for a 95% confidence interval)
With plus four method:
  • $p_{plus} \pm z^* \times \sqrt{\dfrac{p_{plus}(1 - p_{plus})}{N + 4}}$
    where $p_{plus} = \dfrac{X + 2}{N + 4}$ and the critical value $z^*$ is the value under the normal curve with the area $C / 100$ between $-z^*$ and $z^*$ (e.g. $z^*$ = 1.96 for a 95% confidence interval)
n.a.Equivalent to
-
  • When testing two sided: goodness of fit test, with a categorical variable with 2 levels.
  • When $N$ is large, the $p$ value from the $z$ test for a single proportion approaches the $p$ value from the binomial test for a single proportion. The $z$ test for a single proportion is just a large sample approximation of the binomial test for a single proportion.
Example contextExample context
Is there a monotonic relationship between physical health and mental health?Is the proportion of smokers amongst office workers different from $\pi_0 = 0.2$? Use the normal approximation for the sampling distribution of the test statistic.
SPSSSPSS
Analyze > Correlate > Bivariate...
  • Put your two variables in the box below Variables
  • Under Correlation Coefficients, select Spearman
Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > Legacy Dialogs > Binomial...
  • Put your dichotomous variable in the box below Test Variable List
  • Fill in the value for $\pi_0$ in the box next to Test Proportion
If computation time allows, SPSS will give you the exact $p$ value based on the binomial distribution, rather than the approximate $p$ value based on the normal distribution
JamoviJamovi
Regression > Correlation Matrix
  • Put your two variables in the white box at the right
  • Under Correlation Coefficients, select Spearman
  • Under Hypothesis, select your alternative hypothesis
Frequencies > 2 Outcomes - Binomial test
  • Put your dichotomous variable in the white box at the right
  • Fill in the value for $\pi_0$ in the box next to Test value
  • Under Hypothesis, select your alternative hypothesis
Jamovi will give you the exact $p$ value based on the binomial distribution, rather than the approximate $p$ value based on the normal distribution
Practice questionsPractice questions