Spearman's rho - overview

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Spearman's rho
Goodness of fit test
Variable 1Independent variable
One of ordinal levelNone
Variable 2Dependent variable
One of ordinal levelOne categorical with $J$ independent groups ($J \geqslant 2$)
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: the population proportions in each of the $J$ conditions are $\pi_1$, $\pi_2$, $\ldots$, $\pi_J$
or equivalently
  • H0: the probability of drawing an observation from condition 1 is $\pi_1$, the probability of drawing an observation from condition 2 is $\pi_2$, $\ldots$, the probability of drawing an observation from condition $J$ is $\pi_J$
Alternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesis
H1 two sided: $\rho_s \neq 0$
H1 right sided: $\rho_s > 0$
H1 left sided: $\rho_s < 0$
  • H1: the population proportions are not all as specified under the null hypothesis
or equivalently
  • H1: the probabilities of drawing an observation from each of the conditions are not all as specified under the null hypothesis
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 $X^2$ to be approximately chi-squared distributed. Rule of thumb: all $J$ expected cell counts are 5 or more
  • Sample is a simple random sample from the population. That is, observations are independent of one another
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.
$X^2 = \sum{\frac{(\mbox{observed cell count} - \mbox{expected cell count})^2}{\mbox{expected cell count}}}$
Here the expected cell count for one cell = $N \times \pi_j$, the observed cell count is the observed sample count in that same cell, and the sum is over all $J$ cells.
Sampling distribution of $t$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $X^2$ if H0 were true
Approximately the $t$ distribution with $N - 2$ degrees of freedomApproximately the chi-squared distribution with $J - 1$ degrees of freedom
Significant?Significant?
Two sided: Right sided: Left sided:
  • 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 $\alpha$
Example contextExample context
Is there a monotonic relationship between physical health and mental health?Is the proportion of people with a low, moderate, and high social economic status in the population different from $\pi_{low} = 0.2,$ $\pi_{moderate} = 0.6,$ and $\pi_{high} = 0.2$?
SPSSSPSS
Analyze > Correlate > Bivariate...
  • Put your two variables in the box below Variables
  • Under Correlation Coefficients, select Spearman
Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > Legacy Dialogs > Chi-square...
  • Put your categorical variable in the box below Test Variable List
  • Fill in the population proportions / probabilities according to $H_0$ in the box below Expected Values. If $H_0$ states that they are all equal, just pick 'All categories equal' (default)
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 > N Outcomes - $\chi^2$ Goodness of fit
  • Put your categorical variable in the box below Variable
  • Click on Expected Proportions and fill in the population proportions / probabilities according to $H_0$ in the boxes below Ratio. If $H_0$ states that they are all equal, you can leave the ratios equal to the default values (1)
Practice questionsPractice questions