Spearman's rho - overview

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Spearman's rho
Kruskal-Wallis test
Two sample $z$ test
You cannot compare more than 3 methods
Variable 1Independent/grouping variableIndependent/grouping variable
One of ordinal levelOne categorical with $I$ independent groups ($I \geqslant 2$)One categorical with 2 independent groups
Variable 2Dependent variableDependent variable
One of ordinal levelOne of ordinal levelOne quantitative of interval or ratio level
Null hypothesisNull 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.
If the dependent variable is measured on a continuous scale and the shape of the distribution of the dependent variable is the same in all $I$ populations:
  • H0: the population medians for the $I$ groups are equal
Else:
Formulation 1:
  • H0: the population scores in any of the $I$ groups are not systematically higher or lower than the population scores in any of the other groups
Formulation 2:
  • H0: P(an observation from population $g$ exceeds an observation from population $h$) = P(an observation from population $h$ exceeds an observation from population $g$), for each pair of groups.
Several different formulations of the null hypothesis can be found in the literature, and we do not agree with all of them. Make sure you (also) learn the one that is given in your text book or by your teacher.
H0: $\mu_1 = \mu_2$

Here $\mu_1$ is the population mean for group 1, and $\mu_2$ is the population mean for group 2.
Alternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesis
H1 two sided: $\rho_s \neq 0$
H1 right sided: $\rho_s > 0$
H1 left sided: $\rho_s < 0$
If the dependent variable is measured on a continuous scale and the shape of the distribution of the dependent variable is the same in all $I$ populations:
  • H1: not all of the population medians for the $I$ groups are equal
Else:
Formulation 1:
  • H1: the poplation scores in some groups are systematically higher or lower than the population scores in other groups
Formulation 2:
  • H1: for at least one pair of groups:
    P(an observation from population $g$ exceeds an observation from population $h$) $\neq$ P(an observation from population $h$ exceeds an observation from population $g$)
H1 two sided: $\mu_1 \neq \mu_2$
H1 right sided: $\mu_1 > \mu_2$
H1 left sided: $\mu_1 < \mu_2$
AssumptionsAssumptionsAssumptions
  • 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.
  • Group 1 sample is a simple random sample (SRS) from population 1, group 2 sample is an independent SRS from population 2, $\ldots$, group $I$ sample is an independent SRS from population $I$. That is, within and between groups, observations are independent of one another
  • Within each population, the scores on the dependent variable are normally distributed
  • Population standard deviations $\sigma_1$ and $\sigma_2$ are known
  • Group 1 sample is a simple random sample (SRS) from population 1, group 2 sample is an independent SRS from population 2. That is, within and between groups, observations are independent of one another
Test statisticTest 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.

$H = \dfrac{12}{N (N + 1)} \sum \dfrac{R^2_i}{n_i} - 3(N + 1)$

Here $N$ is the total sample size, $R_i$ is the sum of ranks in group $i$, and $n_i$ is the sample size of group $i$. Remember that multiplication precedes addition, so first compute $\frac{12}{N (N + 1)} \times \sum \frac{R^2_i}{n_i}$ and then subtract $3(N + 1)$.

Note: if ties are present in the data, the formula for $H$ is more complicated.
$z = \dfrac{(\bar{y}_1 - \bar{y}_2) - 0}{\sqrt{\dfrac{\sigma^2_1}{n_1} + \dfrac{\sigma^2_2}{n_2}}} = \dfrac{\bar{y}_1 - \bar{y}_2}{\sqrt{\dfrac{\sigma^2_1}{n_1} + \dfrac{\sigma^2_2}{n_2}}}$
Here $\bar{y}_1$ is the sample mean in group 1, $\bar{y}_2$ is the sample mean in group 2, $\sigma^2_1$ is the population variance in population 1, $\sigma^2_2$ is the population variance in population 2, $n_1$ is the sample size of group 1, and $n_2$ is the sample size of group 2. The 0 represents the difference in population means according to the null hypothesis.

The denominator $\sqrt{\frac{\sigma^2_1}{n_1} + \frac{\sigma^2_2}{n_2}}$ is the standard deviation of the sampling distribution of $\bar{y}_1 - \bar{y}_2$. The $z$ value indicates how many of these standard deviations $\bar{y}_1 - \bar{y}_2$ is removed from 0.

Note: we could just as well compute $\bar{y}_2 - \bar{y}_1$ in the numerator, but then the left sided alternative becomes $\mu_2 < \mu_1$, and the right sided alternative becomes $\mu_2 > \mu_1$.
Sampling distribution of $t$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $H$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $z$ if H0 were true
Approximately the $t$ distribution with $N - 2$ degrees of freedom

For large samples, approximately the chi-squared distribution with $I - 1$ degrees of freedom.

For small samples, the exact distribution of $H$ should be used.

Standard normal distribution
Significant?Significant?Significant?
Two sided: Right sided: Left sided: For large samples, the table with critical $X^2$ values can be used. If we denote $X^2 = H$:
  • Check if $X^2$ observed in sample is equal to or larger than critical value $X^{2*}$ or
  • Find $p$ value corresponding to observed $X^2$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
Two sided: Right sided: Left sided:
n.a.n.a.$C\%$ confidence interval for $\mu_1 - \mu_2$
--$(\bar{y}_1 - \bar{y}_2) \pm z^* \times \sqrt{\dfrac{\sigma^2_1}{n_1} + \dfrac{\sigma^2_2}{n_2}}$
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).

The confidence interval for $\mu_1 - \mu_2$ can also be used as significance test.
n.a.n.a.Visual representation
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Two sample z test
Example contextExample contextExample context
Is there a monotonic relationship between physical health and mental health?Do people from different religions tend to score differently on social economic status? Is the average mental health score different between men and women? Assume that in the population, the standard devation of the mental health scores is $\sigma_1 = 2$ amongst men and $\sigma_2 = 2.5$ amongst women.
SPSSSPSSn.a.
Analyze > Correlate > Bivariate...
  • Put your two variables in the box below Variables
  • Under Correlation Coefficients, select Spearman
Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > Legacy Dialogs > K Independent Samples...
  • Put your dependent variable in the box below Test Variable List and your independent (grouping) variable in the box below Grouping Variable
  • Click on the Define Range... button. If you can't click on it, first click on the grouping variable so its background turns yellow
  • Fill in the smallest value you have used to indicate your groups in the box next to Minimum, and the largest value you have used to indicate your groups in the box next to Maximum
  • Continue and click OK
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JamoviJamovin.a.
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
ANOVA > One Way ANOVA - Kruskal-Wallis
  • Put your dependent variable in the box below Dependent Variables and your independent (grouping) variable in the box below Grouping Variable
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